If people use voice-assistant devices such as Alexa to turn lights off and music on, why can’t mechanics use them to fix cars?
That is the goal of RAIN Technology’s new Ortho, billed as the first purpose-built voice assistant for the vehicle-service industry.
“Some people could be skeptical about a voice-assistant device in this environment,” Kim Conti, Ortho’s vice president-product, tells Wards. But in early tryouts, “there has been wide adoption among a variety of technicians, from entry-level to veteran.”
Conti (pictured below, right) says it “brings technology to technicians.”
By saying “Hey Ortho” and asking a question, users get both verbal and visual answers related to vehicle repair and maintenance work.
The tablet device contains information on 30 vehicle makes and models dating to 1990. More can be added.
Magnets on the back of the device attach to metal parts of serviced vehicles. That precludes mechanics from having to hold the tablet in one hand and a tool in the other.
The company’s sales pitch to service departments is that Ortho saves technicians time: as much as 10 minutes a job, equating to hours a week
“We built Ortho with a laser focus on saving meaningful time in the shop, tapping into voice technology’s inherent advantages – speed of input, hands-free use, and a distraction-free interface,” says Nithya Thadani, CEO of parent company RAIN.
Conti tells of some technicians turning to Google and YouTube in search of the repair information. “This is better and faster,” she says of Ortho.
Getting information from traditional repair databases can gobble up time, she says. It can require setting down tools, cleaning hands, walking across the shop to a computer terminal, entering a search query and scanning results pages.
“That’s a pain point for many shops,” Conti says.
In contrast, technicians using Ortho stay in their bay, going from question to answer in seconds.
Moreover, “the visual and voice components are important,” Conti says. Answers are displayed on the screen and read aloud through text-to-speech.
The product can clarify requests. For instance, if a mechanic asks about a brake pad, Ortho will say, “Did you mean front or rear?”
RAIN developers spent 18 months on the project, seeking input from various technicians and service managers.
The company has piloted Ortho in about a dozen service facilities in the U.S. and Canada. But it is eyeing points beyond and plans to approach auto dealerships soon.
“We believe this will power shops around the world,” Conti says.