Category Archives: Blog

Nick Howden interviewed about Artificial Intelligence

Real Thing CEO, Nick Howden was recently interviewed by several magazines to discuss the issues and dilemmas around the use of artificial intelligence arising from the recent sci-fi thriller movie, Chappie.

Image of Nick Howden - Real Thing CEO

Men’s magazine Maxim explored the pros and cons and impacts of AI in our lives, as well as the future directions and moral issues arising from our growing use of AI.  Read the article at the link below.

Tech Magazine PC Tech Authority explored with Nick, the potential problems and possible negative outcomes that might emerge from human’s increasing reliance on artificial intelligence and technology.  Some of these potentially dangerous scenarios were highlighted in the movie Chappie.,not-quite-human-the-future-of-intelligence.aspx

Tech Magazine, PC Power Play, was interested in how close we are to replicating and duplicating (or uploading and backing-up) the human mind into an artificial intelligence, as depicted in Chappie and how far we are from ‘truly self aware AI’.  The article also explores with Nick, the fascinating issues around whether we as humans can responsibly create and control AI, as well as other interesting AI dilemmas.  Read it in full at the link below.,405498

RealSAM at RSB Tech Fest

Once again, we took RealSAM to the RSB ‘Tech Fest’ in Adelaide at the end of May, an event which displays and demonstrates the latest adaptive technology and includes a program of talks.  Nick had a great time, demonstrating SAM to lots of interested Tech Fest visitors, and giving a talk on the technology.   As usual the event was a great success, we met lots of interesting people and had a very positive response to RealSAM accessibility technology.  See you there next year!

RealSAM off to V.A. Texpo in Melbourne and Sydney in October

We are excited to be taking RealSAM on the road again, to Vision Australia’s Texpo in Melbourne, Kooyong on the 10th and 11th of October and Enfield, Sydney on the 17th and 18th of October.

Formerly held in September, Vision Australia has moved the Texpo events to October in order to coincide with two awareness days, World Sight Day and White Cane Day, and hence create a “Vision Week”.

We will be delighted to demonstrate RealSAM to you, and this time RealSAM will be available for sale at Texpo!  You can check out how simple SAM is to use, and how accessible newspapers, podcasts and newsfeeds are through RealSAM.  

We can also show you our prototype book reading and navigation functions, which are currently under production, and will be available in the near future. 

Hope to see you there!

Real Thing awarded ARC linkage grant with RMIT University

Real Thing is proud to announce that we have successfully secured an ARC Linkage Grant with RMIT University.  

“Spoken Conversational Search: Contextual interactive techniques to support effective information search over a speech-only communication channel.”

Speech interaction with machines and mobile devices is becoming a ubiquitous reality. However, the challenge of effective discovery and presentation of search results over a speech-only channel has not received much attention from the Information Retrieval research community.

This project proposes developing effective search via speech by developing an interactive conversational approach, particularly for intent recognition and result presentation. Such techniques will be transformational for universal information access, enabling efficient and effective access where visual display of results is unavailable: e.g. use by the visually impaired, or situations requiring hands-free operation, such as driving or operating machinery.

Investigators: Dr. Lawrence Cavedon (RMIT), Prof. Mark Sanderson (RMIT), Prof. Lin Padgham (RMIT), Prof. Bruce Croft (Uni. Massachussetts at Amherst), Nick Howden (Realthing Entertainment Pty Ltd)

Funder: Australian Research Council, Linkage Projects Scheme

RealSAM goes to RSB Tech Fest 2014

We were pleased to have the opportunity to go to Adelaide recently for the Royal Society for the Blind ‘Tech Fest’ (29-30 May).  We had a great time demonstrating RealSAM and meeting lots of interesting people.

Tech Fest is a fantastic opportunity to showcase our assistive technology and see what others in the field are doing.  Without a doubt we look forward to exhibiting again in 2015.

RealSAM is now available!

We are delighted to announce that RealSAM is now available for purchase.

SAM is now a sleeker model, still with a simple one-button interface, and intuitive speech controls.  SAM can read you a huge range of newspapers and play thousands of podcasts, and she now has some fantastic new features including weather, location and time. 

To find out more and see some demonstration videos, go to our RealSAM website:  

We have a dedicated help centre to answer any queries you might have about RealSAM: call 1300 557 350  (7 days from 7am – 7pm).

Real Thing goes to Texpo 2013

It was a great pleasure to meet so many interesting people at Vision Australia’s Texpo on three successive weekends, Brisbane (30-31 August), Melbourne (6-7 September) and Sydney (13-14 September).  We demonstrated our prototype version of RealSAM to hundreds of people and received great feedback.  We will certainly be looking forward to exhibiting at Texpo again in 2014.

Trials begin of prototype accessible media device

Real Thing has begun user trials of its prototype device for people who are blind, have low vision or a print disability to access digital news, using a natural dialogue interaction. A number of blind and low vision users are now accessing their daily newspapers by speaking to Sam – Real Thing’s accessible media device.

Real Thing accessible media device

Real Thing's accessible media device

“The feedback so far has been very positive”, says Nick Howden, Real Thing CEO. “In particular our non-technical users are enjoying the simplicity and intuitive dialogue that they can now use to read their daily newspapers.”

This first trial will run for a month, and is testing the access to news content. Currently it makes available a number of local and national newspapers from the Vision Australia library, as well as the ABC News feed which is updated regularly. This trial will be followed by more trials featuring additional media types, including radio podcasts and audiobooks.

“The vision for this product is to be the single device through which people can access a huge range of media and information”, Nick said. “It makes this information accessible to people who are blind or low vision, and is useful for anyone who wants to listen to media while their hands or eyes are occupied.”

More information is available on the RealSAM web page at




Real Thing and RMIT win Telstra Innovation Challenge

The “Open-ended Conversational System” project, developed by a team from Real Thing and RMIT University’s School of Computer Science and IT, won the 2011 Telstra Innovation Challenge. It fuses software agents and knowledge engineering to recreate normal conversation, except without the human element and the associated cost or errors.

The winning team (L to R): Prof Lin Padgham, Dr John Thangarajah, Andrew Hodgson, Wilson Wong

The winning team (L to R): Prof Lin Padgham, Dr John Thangarajah, Andrew Hodgson, Wilson Wong

“We knew we had a strong idea, but it’s fantastic to win, a great honour,” Dr John Thangarajah, a Senior Lecturer at RMIT and the team member who pitched the project to Telstra, said. “Our system could prove to be better – more efficient and cheaper – than a call centre or a normal online search and could even replace call centres in the long run, which both customers and the companies themselves recognise as being problematic.”

Dr Thangarajah saw the potential to apply this to the realm of information and communications technologies. “A Google search will give you an answer to your query, but you can’t query further along that same context; ie, you can’t have a conversation with Google about what you’re looking for,” he said.

See article in The Australian:

Real Thing and RMIT win new ARC Linkage Grant

Real Thing and RMIT have been successful in winning another 3 years of funding for collaborative research into intelligent interactive toys. The project funded through this ARC Linkage Grant builds on the work under the previous grant, and contributes over $1 Million to the joint research efforts.

“The award of a second ARC grant in this field confirms that we are doing world-leading work”, said Nick Howden, Real Thing’s CEO, “We are very pleased to extend our relationship with Professor Lin Padgham and her team for another three years”.