AT Update Logo

ATU526 – Supersense App with Shane Lowe

Play

AT Update Logo

Your weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Special Guest:

Shane Lowe – Community Operations Manger for Mediate

https://www.supersense.app/

Supersenseai on Twitter, Facebook and other Social Media
——————————
If you have an AT question, leave us a voice mail at: 317-721-7124 or email tech@eastersealscrossroads.org
Check out our web site: http://www.eastersealstech.com
Follow us on Twitter: @INDATAproject
Like us on Facebook: www.Facebook.com/INDATA

 

——– Transcript Starts Here ———

Shane Lowe:
What’s going on. This is Shane Lowe. I’m the community ops director at Mediate and this is your Assistive Technology Update.Josh Anderson:
Hello and welcome to your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up to date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist individuals with disabilities and special needs. I’m your host, Josh Anderson with the INDATA project at Easterseals Crossroads in beautiful Indianapolis, Indiana. Welcome to episode 526 of Assistive Technology Update it’s scheduled to be released on June 25th, 2021.Josh Anderson:
On today’s show, we’re super excited to have Shane Lowe from Mediate on to talk about the Supersense app and some of the other great things that they’re doing.

Josh Anderson:
Don’t forget, you can always reach out to us on Twitter @INDATAproject, or send us an email at tech@eastersealscrossroads.org. We want to thank you so much for listening, but let’s go ahead and get on with the show.

Josh Anderson:
After all these months of lockdown, maybe you’re looking for some new podcast to listen to. Well make sure to check out our sister podcast, Accessibility Minute and ATFAQ or Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions.

Josh Anderson:
If you’re super busy and don’t have time to listen to a full podcast, be sure to check out Accessibility Minute, our one minute long podcast that gives you just a little taste of something assistive technology based so that you’re able to get your assistive technology fix without taking up the whole day. Hosted by Tracy Castillo, the show comes out weekly.

Josh Anderson:
Our other show is Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions or ATFAQ. On Assistive Technology Frequently Asked Questions, Brian Norton leads our panel of experts, including myself, Belva Smith and our own Tracy Castillo as we try to answer your assistive technology questions. This show does rely on you, so we’re always looking for new questions, comments, or even your answers on assistive technology questions.

Josh Anderson:
So remember if you’re looking for more assistive technology podcasts to check out, you can check out our sister shows Accessibility Minute and ATFAQ wherever you get your podcasts now, including Spotify and Amazon Music.

Josh Anderson:
Listeners, I’m going to actually skim most of the intro today because we have a lot of ground to cover in a short amount of time. Our guest today is Shane Lowe, and he’s the community operations manager for Mediate. And he’s here to tell us all about Mediate and one of their solutions called the Supersense app. Shane, welcome to the show.

Shane Lowe:
Thank you so much, man. I’m happy to be here. I’m excited.

Josh Anderson:
I am too.

Shane Lowe:
Sounds fun.

Josh Anderson:
I’m really excited to get into talking about the technology, but before we do that, could you tell our listeners a little bit about and your background?

Shane Lowe:
Yeah, absolutely. So I’m 21. I’m super young and I’m super fortunate to be working in this field at the age that I am. I’ve been working in the technical field for about seven years. So I never get bored. I’m always doing something. I’m always messing around with something. When I’m not working for Mediate for Supersense, I’m a live drummer. I’m a live music engineer. I’m pursuing my business administration degree. I’ve got two semesters left and I have a five-year-old son. He turned five on May 24th. So I have to get used to calling him five now. So yeah, always something to do, always a lot of fun to have going on around here.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, for sure. And congratulations on the five-year-old.

Shane Lowe:
Thank you so much.

Josh Anderson:
I’ve got, well, I have some. It’s been a few decades in my role. I have a 20 year old, a 12 year old, a two year old and one on the way.

Shane Lowe:
Wow. Look at that.

Josh Anderson:
Hey, it keeps you young. It keeps you young.

Shane Lowe:
I hope so.

Josh Anderson:
So without getting deep into it, I am not 21, Shane. Well heck, that’s good. Let’s end the show right there because I feel like it went really well.

Shane Lowe:
Thanks for coming.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, exactly.

Shane Lowe:
We’ll see you next time. [crosstalk 00:04:09]

Josh Anderson:
All right, well, let’s go ahead and jump into the technology a little bit. So first of all, tell me about Mediate as a whole. What is it and why is it important?

Shane Lowe:
So I like Mediate because I try to be a really conscious consumer. So I am one of those people that believes that we really vote for the companies that remain with our money. So it’s really important to me when I’m making purchases, but also when I pick a place to work. Because I don’t want to work for a company that I feel like is treating its customers or its end users badly because that just doesn’t align with my moral compass. So that’s the first thing that you should know about me. And then that also reflects on the company because I wouldn’t work for them if they were a bad company.

Shane Lowe:
The thing that I love about Mediate is our focus is on the people that we’re serving. So our goal is to work with users to create solutions to problems that actual people have, that actual people want solutions for. We’re not trying to create something and then convince you that you need it. All of the products that we develop, all of the features that we create are directly in response to what people have come to us and asked for.

Shane Lowe:
Unfortunately I think that makes us unique in a couple of the different markets that we’re in. Because I feel like a lot of times either as a blind person or as a college student, or even as just a person in the generation that I am in, people come to me and tell me, “Hey, you need this thing and so you should buy it.” And I really have an issue with that approach because I feel like a lot of times I’m not the person being considered. It’s more about the bottom line of certain businesses. And so that’s really what we’re not about. We’re here to create something that people want, something that people are excited about using. Something that people would like to use to make their lives more efficient.

Josh Anderson:
And I think that led perfectly in to talking about the Supersense app. So first of all, what is the Supersense app?

Shane Lowe:
So the Supersense app is our flagship product. Actually, we’ve had some come out since then, but we’ve not had any come out before Supersense. That’s our first. And it’s all about scanning. So it focuses on scanning anything that you might need to analyze or get information about.

Shane Lowe:
So it started with objects being able to scan. Now, it can scan over 600 objects in your vicinity. And there were a couple of options where you could filter down. You could get all of the objects or you could filter and pick out specific ones that you wanted the app to tell you about. And then people asked us, what about books? What about business cards? What about barcodes? What about restaurant menus? So we started adding all of these things, but with the design in mind. So we were focusing on simplicity. We were focusing on speed and efficiency and we were focusing on accuracy. We wanted it to be the best, the most accurate, the most correct, the most worthwhile scanning app that you could use. And so we added the document reader and the smart scanner and all of these different things that I’m sure we’re about to jump into.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. You already opened up my next question, because I was going to ask you about the different features. So let’s just start with the document reader, because print access can be such a huge barrier for individuals with visual impairments or really any kind of print disability. So tell me about that.

Shane Lowe:
So we came at the document reader with a couple of different things in mind. Number one, it’s hard to get a picture of a document if you can’t see the document. That’s just, a couple of things factor in there. It’s the orientation of the camera relative to the page, but it’s also the ambient lighting in the room. What kind of surface is the document on? What is the font like? So it’s just all of these things to consider that as a blind person, it’s difficult to factor in. So we added in smart guidance. That was the first thing that we added for our document reader. And that’s designed to give you simple directions to help you take a picture of a document. So it’ll tell you simple things, like move your phone one inch toward yourself or move your phone slightly to the left.

Shane Lowe:
And it starts off with this prompt of holding your phone a foot away, parallel to the document and it uses the back camera. And it also handles lighting automatically. So if there’s not enough light, it’ll turn on the flashlight automatically and turn it off when there is enough light or when you close the app. So it’s trying to take away as many of those considerations as possible automatically.

Shane Lowe:
And then the next thing that we’re trying to work on here is accuracy. Because I’ve used a lot of different OCR technologies. I’ve used other apps. I’ve used physical devices that cost upwards of a thousand dollars to scan different things. And you get various degrees of success depending on which one that you use. And so we wanted to create something reliable. So part of that, again, is taking a good picture.

Shane Lowe:
If you take a good picture, it’s going to be a lot easier for the computer to analyze that picture and give you the text. Furthermore, we worked with MIT to create a really incredible AI system that’s going to be able to process these documents quickly, but also really accurately. So nowadays, as long as I take a good picture, I usually get a maximum of one or two errors per page.

Shane Lowe:
And then finally, it’s about being able to use that information that you’ve gathered. So how would you want to share it? We wanted to make it as easy as possible. You can share specific parts of it. If somebody only wants a part of the document, why send them the whole thing if you can send them what’s relevant? So you can copy paragraphs. You can of course send the whole thing as well. You can export as PDF. You could text it, you can email it, you can put it up on the cloud, you can do whatever you want to do with that document. You can click on contact info from right in there. So it’s just all of these little things that we’re trying to make into one really efficient, really effective feature.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. It’s great. It gives you a little bit more than just having that information read back to you. It actually lets you interact with it and use it in different ways, so that’s good. Something I haven’t really seen a whole lot of in the past.

Josh Anderson:
And then I know it also lets you explore the environment around you. So you touched on this a little bit, but tell me about how it describes objects or the world around or how it helps an individual with that exploration piece.

Shane Lowe:
Right. So when you have it in explore mode, we have three modes here for the explore screen. The explore mode is the one that is most relevant here because it’s constantly scanning for what could be in your area. So it’s always looking for everything that it knows about and it’ll tell you anything that it sees. So it picks up people, pets, doors, chairs, computers, pianos, stairs, anything you can think of. It will see it.

Josh Anderson:
So is it also able to read signs, things like that are around? Is it able to pick up those?

Shane Lowe:
The explorer, no. You can use the document reader for signs. You can also use the quick reader for signs. Quick Read doesn’t give you any guidance directions. It just is literally, it’s goal is just to be as fast as possible. So it will just throw a result back at you. Less focused on accuracy, more focused on giving you information as quickly as possible.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. So just tell me just because, especially without having it right here in my hand, what kind of situations are best to use that kind of… Oh man, you just said it too and my brain went somewhere else.

Shane Lowe:
Quick read?

Josh Anderson:
Quick read. Thank you. Yeah. Well what’s the best scenario to use that quick read feature?

Shane Lowe:
I like it for mail. I like it for some products as well. So it ties into our barcode reader a little bit. Sometimes there are, unfortunately because we’re human, there are barcodes that are not in our database. And so if I don’t know what that product is, Supersense gives me the option to label that product if Supersense, doesn’t know what it is. But if I also don’t know what it is, it’s not very helpful. So quick read will tell me what it is. I can scan the product and figure out what it is with quick read.

Shane Lowe:
I’ve used quick read to check mail. And then if it’s something important, I’ll use document reader to actually read the text. But quick read will just tell you who it’s addressed to, who it’s from, all that stuff. It’s pretty helpful. I do use quick read for signs as well. Those are probably my top three for a quick read. And then document read is more for book pages, mail that I care about reading, anything that I want to read accurately.

Josh Anderson:
When we talk about the document scanner, can it do more than one page or is it just limited to the one page?

Shane Lowe:
Yes. Yeah. There’s a multi page one. So you can do as many pages as you want.

Josh Anderson:
Okay, excellent. So you definitely use it for a little bit bigger books and things like that.

Shane Lowe:
Yes. For sure.

Josh Anderson:
So what about some other stuff? And I just always have to ask about these. Currency reader, different things like that, are those things available there as well?

Shane Lowe:
Yep. You’ve got a currency reader. Currently it can pick up five different currencies, the US dollar, Canadian, Euro, the British pound and the Australian dollar. And we’re working on adding more of those as well. We get a lot of requests for different currencies and they just take longer than you might expect honestly, to implement them.

Josh Anderson:
I can only imagine with all the different stuff that’s in there.

Shane Lowe:
Absolutely.

Josh Anderson:
I mean, how much technology goes into making currency, so I guess trying to read all of that has to be really difficult.

Shane Lowe:
And we have to train the model too. If you want your currency to be read correctly, you have to go through a lot of training for the computer model so that it knows when it sees a picture of that currency that you’re scanning what exactly it is. You could have it upside down, at an angle, flipped over, all these different things. So it takes a lot.

Josh Anderson:
Oh sure. Missing a coroner, crinkled up in somebody’s pocket for two years. Yeah. I imagine how difficult it has to be. It’s not as easy as just an A’s and A is an A whenever you’re trying to read.

Shane Lowe:
Right. Absolutely.

Josh Anderson:
I can see how that could definitely make a big difference. Shane, is this app available on everything, on a iOS and Android? Is it just one? Is it both?

Shane Lowe:
Yes, sir. Both.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, excellent. Excellent.

Shane Lowe:
It is.

Josh Anderson:
And I do have to ask you just how much does it cost?

Shane Lowe:
Of course. So the way that works is when you download it, you get seven days for free and then it will revert into free mode, which gives you access to quick read. You have the import feature, so you can import photos from your library or memes or PDF documents type of stuff. And also read history. Which gives you, anything that you can with Supersense, including quick read barcodes type stuff, it will store on your phone locally. We don’t have any of that on the cloud. We don’t have access to what you scan, but you have it on your phone in case phone dies, phone crashes, you forget to save something, Supersense, crashes, anything like that. You can recover it instead of having to scan it again. So you have access to those things.

Shane Lowe:
If you want all of the other stuff that I was talking to you about … Oh, the other magnifier’s free too. We have a magnifier in there now.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, cool.

Shane Lowe:
That’s new so I forgot about it. But yeah, all of the explorer screen stuff, the smart scanner, which will essentially let you automatically scan currency barcodes, quick read and document read at the same time. The barcode reader, the currency reader, all that stuff is premium features. So you can pay $5 a month, $50 annually, or a hundred dollars for lifetime access. And that includes all the updates, all the fixes.

Shane Lowe:
And we do that A, to fund our research. Because the problems that we try to solve still exist because they’re not easy to solve. So naturally they’re expensive and so we have to try to balance out our expenses for research. And also, the services that we use to analyze the data that people send into us to scan also costs money. So the barcode database, the servers that are processing documents, all that stuff costs money too. So we’re trying to just offset that as well.

Josh Anderson:
Oh sure. So Shane, you guys are also working on something called Super Lidar. Can you tell me about that?

Shane Lowe:
Yes. And it’s free by the way.

Josh Anderson:
Oh, nice. I like how you led with that.

Shane Lowe:
Yeah. It’s free. That entices people. The downside to that being, it only works on Lidar equipped devices. So iPhone 12 pro, 12 pro max, iPad pro, and we’ll see what the thirteens have in stores here soon I believe. So that’ll be exciting.

Shane Lowe:
But the Super Lidar itself is hence the name, completely relying on lidar to give you navigational information. So it’s more focused on assessing a space and reporting back distances and obstacles in your area. And so, this is more about traveling, orientation, navigation type stuff.

Shane Lowe:
And that’s how we started in the company. That’s what we really wanted to focus on. So it’s pretty exciting to go back to that because as a blind person, I’ve always wanted an app that will work anywhere regardless of the presence of a map, Bluetooth beacons, or even internet connection, like cellular data. You don’t need any of that stuff to use Super Lidar. It works anywhere.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. I’m looking very forward to, to kind of try this out. Because I know ever since they said the lidar was coming out, I was like, oh, it’s going to have some great things. And I love that you guys are using that. Because sometimes things might tell you yeah, there’s another person in the room or something like that, but it never tells you how far away are they. Am I right up on them? Am I six feet away, am I 10 feet away? I mean, I guess for the longest time, we’ve all had to be six feet away from each other-

Shane Lowe:
That’s true.

Josh Anderson:
… so I guess that might be able to help with that too, but awesome. Awesome. Yeah. And hopefully that lidar will start showing up in more phones, more devices too as the-

Shane Lowe:
I hope so.

Josh Anderson:
And it’s one of those things where it always seems to come out on one device and next thing you know it’s the norm and just a built-in piece or be a built in part.

Shane Lowe:
I hope that happens. I really want more people to have access to this. To be completely honest with you, I’m still using an iPhone seven. So I don’t even have day-to-day access to Super Lidar. I’ve done a lot of testing with it, but on my personal device, I don’t even have access to Super Lidar. And so it’s something when I talk to people about it, I’m like, I’m right there with you. I’m not using Super Lidar yet either, but I’m so excited to get access to it on the day-to-day basis because it gives so much info.

Shane Lowe:
The cane is still number one priority. The guide dog is still number one. Your own senses are always your first line of defense. But beyond that, this gives us access to information that we never really got before. We can dodge tree branches. We’re working on new experimental stuff where you can detect staircases with it, like ascending and descending stairs. That’s still very experimental because that’s dangerous. You can’t rely on that too much.

Josh Anderson:
Well, and like you said, I mean nothing’s going to replace the dog. Nothing’s going to replace the white cane.

Shane Lowe:
Absolutely.

Josh Anderson:
But the more information you have, the easier it will be for navigation.

Shane Lowe:
Of course.

Josh Anderson:
For sure.

Shane Lowe:
Absolutely. That’s really important to know because it’s just cool to me to have the ability to know. My cane’s what, five, five and a half feet long. Lidar can see 15 feet out. So you have so much more warning of an obstacle. And there are some obstacles too. The first day that I tested Super Lidar, I was walking through an office building and I didn’t know the app yet so I didn’t trust it. They were just like, come test this new app that we’ve just started developing.

Shane Lowe:
And I came in and I was like, oh, it’s telling me there’s something there. Well, obviously it’s wrong. My cane’s not picking up anything. And I hip checked a table as I walked past it. So this thing is also picking up something that the cane can miss. The cane will miss it sometimes, but Super Lidar will pick it up because the phone just has this crazy field of view. It can see a much wider perspective in all directions than I ever really expected from the 12 pro because I never really thought about it. So it’s just really cool.

Josh Anderson:
Nice. Very nice. Shane, can you tell me a story about someone’s experience using Supersense and how it’s just made a big difference for them?

Shane Lowe:
Tell you a story. I love telling stories. I’m a storyteller. My other trade when I’m not working in tech is I wrote a book. I wrote part of a book and then I also do a lot of writing on the side. So this is fun. I never got to tell a story on a podcast before.

Josh Anderson:
Good. Well then this is one of my favorite parts. Because I mean, like you said, this is made for people to use who need to use it. So I always feel like you get a little bit more to the heart of the thing if you can find out how someone used it and was able to succeed or do more with it. So, go ahead.

Shane Lowe:
Yeah, exactly. So I met this guy. He didn’t give me advanced permission to tell the story. So I’m going to call him Jim.

Josh Anderson:
Works for me.

Shane Lowe:
I met Jim a few months ago. And I was actually worried at first because he seemed a bit frustrated with me. And this was just after we put out Super Lidar. He seemed a bit frustrated with me. He said, “I really thought I could use Super Lidar to drive my four wheeler and that doesn’t work. And so I think you need to fix that.” And my first response is, we’re telling people that you need to make sure you’re using a cane or a guide dog, or have some functional vision before you’re using Super Lidar anyway, let alone before you hop on a four wheeler. So my first response was a little bit of concern.

Shane Lowe:
But then, we talked it out. We talked about his story and his perspective. And it turns out that he was in the military and went blind in combat. And he was trying to support his family. He was living in a rural area. And we were just talking about his experiences with Supersense, because a lot of our Super Lidar users found Supersense first.

Shane Lowe:
And he was telling me about his experience with Supersense that he was trying to get into gardening. He was trying to get into woodworking. And he was having a hard time reading these different manuals and reading packages for plant seeds and just different products. And Supersense was the app that he found that works really well for that.

Shane Lowe:
And I think a lot of people when you go into the workforce, chances are, you want to go in and help someone. You want to have some kind of impact. You want to have a lasting print on the world that you leave. And that’s when it hit me that maybe we’re really doing something useful here.

Shane Lowe:
Because it always means the world to me when people come and say like, “Oh man, this app was so useful. I love being able to do this or I love being able to scan for bus stop signs.” Or, I was able to find assistance with the explore feature. I love hearing those kind messages because it means that we’re doing something, having an impact. We’re doing something of value to someone else. And that literally gives us a purpose. That’s helping our users, but without the people that are using Supersense or the people that are using Super Lidar, why the hell are we here? What the hell are we doing with these things?

Josh Anderson:
Yeah. Makes it a whole lot easier to show up for work when you know you’re making a difference, doesn’t it.

Shane Lowe:
It does. Absolutely it does.

Josh Anderson:
Yeah, it really does.

Shane Lowe:
How can I be frustrated or even in a bad mood coming to work when I’m coming to tell people about something that could help them, genuinely. Not trying to sell someone something. I’m not trying to scam anyone. This is actually something that could be a genuine helps to people and has been a genuine help to people like me who are blind.

Josh Anderson:
There you go. Exactly.

Shane Lowe:
That’s an honor. That’s an honor.

Josh Anderson:
Well, Shane, if our listeners want to find out more about Mediate, about Supersense or Super Lidar, what’s the best ways for them to do that?

Shane Lowe:
Yeah, absolutely. Hold on. I’ve got to switch gears to my, I was getting too serious there for a second. I was on my soap box. So you can go to our website, Supersense.app. That’s where we have our newsletter. You’re always welcome to sign up. We send out updates once a month. You can follow us on social media. We are Supersenseai, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn. Please check us out there. We’re posting all kinds of new stuff, product updates, blog posts, all of that.

Shane Lowe:
And if you are one of those incredible people who like Supersense or Super Lidar and have found them useful, please feel free to rate on the app store because that factors into how the app gets spread. So if you rate us on the app store or the Play store, more people are more likely to see the apps. So if it’s something that you feel other people should see, please feel free to do that.

Shane Lowe:
Please feel free to send us your comments, your requests, your ideas, your concerns, anything. You can request free training, free tech support from within either of the app and I will call you back myself. You can also send us an email. So we just try to be really community oriented. Get in touch with us any way that you can. We would love to keep up.

Josh Anderson:
Excellent. We’ll put all that information down in the show notes. Well, Shane, thank you so much for coming on today-

Shane Lowe:
Thank you, Josh.

Josh Anderson:
… telling us all about Supersense, about Mediate, about Super Lidar and all the great things that you guys do.

Shane Lowe:
Thank you so much, man. It was a pleasure.

Josh Anderson:
Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? If you do, call our listener line at (317) 721-7124. Shoot us a note on Twitter @indataproject or check us out on Facebook.

Josh Anderson:
Are you looking for a transcript or show notes? Head on over to our website at www.Eastersealstech.com. Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the accessibility channel. For more shows like this, plus so much more, head over to accessibilitychannel.com.

Josh Anderson:
The views expressed by our guests are not necessarily that of this host or the INDATA Project. This has been your assistive technology update. I’m Josh Anderson with the INDATA Project at Easterseals Crossroads in Indianapolis, Indiana. Thank you so much for listening and we’ll see you next time.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.