If you’re feeling uncertain about interacting with a potentially contaminated touchscreen in a public space in the age of Covid-19 – whether at a restaurant, bank or airport – Israeli startup Touchless.ai says: talk, don’t touch.

Touchless.ai has developed an extension for Chrome-based websites and apps that allows developers to add voice control to their touchscreens with no new coding. Support for Android and Apple iOS is in the works.

Touchless.ai uses a proprietary scanning technology to add numbers to a customer’s existing interface, so there’s little learning curve.

Instead of touching the picture of the Vietnamese spring roll on the screen, you speak its number. You can navigate by saying simple commands like “up,” “down,” “save” and “checkout.”

Watch this demo of a couple making an order in a Tel Aviv restaurant.

The Covid-19 crisis has led to concerns about catching the novel coronavirus if multiple people touch the same screen.

Touchless.ai’s solution could be used in medical centers, theme parks, retail point of sale and many other public spaces. Touchless.ai is in trials with “some prominent chains,” the company added, in the United States and Europe and is working with leading kiosk supplier Pyramid as well as semiconductor giant Intel.

Touchless.ai already works in English, Hebrew and Japanese, and can be modified to work in any language.

Touchless.ai’s approach is a Covid-19 inspired offshoot from Israeli speech recognition and enhanced startup Hi Auto, whose technology enables talking on a speakerphone in a car or to give commands to your in-car Siri even if there’s a lot of background noise.

“We have long looked at voice assistants for commerce environments as an interesting area for a second vertical for us,” Hi Auto CEO Roy Baharav tells ISRAEL21c. “Covid-19 made it clear that the need for voice is not just for better experience but also for safer experience. It made the market need more immediate.”

Touchless.ai co-creators Eyal Shapira and Roy Baharav. Photo: courtesy

By automatically adding numbers to an existing menu interface, Touchless.ai gets around the difficulties that voice interfaces have in understanding natural speech.

“Until now, voice interfaces in commercial environments did not work for three reasons,” Baharav explains. “The tasks were too complex for the existing technologies; the voice recognition technologies were not accurate enough in a noisy environment with complex interactions; and the setup for existing solutions could run into tens of thousands of dollars to develop a new voice application and take several months.”

Meanwhile, Hi Auto just announced a new project with automaker Porsche as part of the Startup Autobahn expo.

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