RealNetworks is releasing its first hardware product, a kiosk that checks the proper use of face mask

RealNetworks is releasing its first hardware product, a kiosk that checks the proper use of face mask

A new MaskCheck kiosk in the lobby of RealNetwork’s Seattle headquarters, demonstrated by Frederick Savoye, vice president of consumer, media and cloud. (Photo on RealNetworks)

From its early days as a streaming audio pioneer to the latest expansion into face recognition technology, RealNetworks has focused on software and services throughout its 27-year history. But the pandemic is pushing many companies to try new things, and the software’s cornerstone is entering hardware for the first time.

RealNetworks’ new MaskCheck kiosk, which debuted on Wednesday at a $ 995 introductory price, promises to quickly and reliably detect if people passing by are wearing face masks. At just over 4 feet tall and a sturdy 27 pounds, the MaskCheck Kiosk uses a pre-installed iPad 8. An internal battery in the base charges when plugged in and lasts for up to three days.

The idea is to encourage and reinforce proper use of face mask, ideally leaving it to technology to avoid what may become awkward or confrontational interaction.

“We are not trying to make any kind of political statement here,” RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said in a virtual demonstration of the kiosk this week. “We’re just trying to launch a product that we think will make the world a better place.”

The kiosk uses the free MaskCheck software that the Seattle-based company introduced in December for iOS and Android. RealNetworks says it heard from companies and organizations that did not want the hassle of inventing their own temporary methods to install or place tablets running MaskCheck in stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals, offices or other public environments.

The new MaskCheck kiosk. (RealNetworks photos)

RealNetworks says that MaskCheck works in less than a second with more than 90% accuracy, providing visual and audio connectors that let passers-by know if they are wearing a mask properly or not.

Glaser said RealNetworks chose to place the MaskCheck kiosk at a much lower price than existing mask detection devices, which can sell for $ 2,500 or more. The company does not lose money on the product, but it does not earn much, he said.

The normal price outside of the initial campaign is $ 1,195. The kiosk can be purchased online for delivery in the US and Canada.

The MaskCheck software also remains available for free only. It is based on RealNetworks’ SAFR technology, which is used in other face recognition scenarios. However, the company says the MaskCheck app does not use face recognition or seeks to identify the person.

Venues can decide whether to use MaskCheck to passively collect data on mask use; to provide visual reminders of the proper use of masks; or to use the app to enforce compliance and prevent people from entering a particular room unless they are wearing a mask properly.

RealNetworks has partnered on MaskCheck with the COVID-19 International Research Team, a coalition of researchers coordinating COVID-19-related projects, including research that has shown the effectiveness of masks in slowing the spread of the virus that causes the disease.

Features of the MaskCheck kiosk include a loop in the base for locking the kiosk with a security cable. The company notes that the pre-installed iPad can be reused later if the kiosk is no longer needed after the pandemic.

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser in 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Face recognition and artificial intelligence are growth areas for RealNetworks, where revenue from SAFR increased 282% in the second quarter, ending June 30th. Total revenue for the company fell 8% to $ 14.6 million in the second quarter with a net loss of $ 1.4 million.

RealNetwork’s established business areas are consumer media licenses and subscriptions, including videocodec technologies and its RealPlayer software; mobile services and technologies; and casual video games for mobile devices and computers.

Now that RealNetworks has tried its hand at hardware, does the company have additional devices in mind, perhaps in other parts of its business?

“Today, that’s what we’re announcing,” Glaser said with an entrepreneurial gleam in his eye. “We’ll see where it leads. From small acorns sometimes grow giant Redwoods, so you never know. ”

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