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Helping the Blind See with A.I.
Episode 300

Eliav Rodman, Director of Marketing at OrCam Technologies

Helping the Blind See with A.I.

Helping the Blind See with A.I.

Episode 300

Recommended Book:

Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari

Blind Visionary by Virginia Jacko

Best Way to Contact Eliav:

eliav.rodman@orcam.com

Company Website:

https://www.orcam.com/en/

Helping the Blind See with A.I. with Eliav Rodman, Director of Marketing at OrCam Technologies (transcribed by Sonix)

Welcome to the Outcomes Rocket podcast where we inspire collaborative thinking, improved outcomes, and business success with today’s most successful and inspiring healthcare leaders and influencers. And now your host, Saul Marquez.

Saul Marquez: And welcome back to the Outcomes Rocket podcast today I have the outstanding Eliav Rodman. He’s a Director of Marketing at orCam Technologies. Eliav is an entrepreneur and content marketing expert with international experience in community building, marketing, and management. Before joining orCam, Eliav founded a Los Angeles based consultancy providing digital marketing, services, served as interim executive director of the L.A. Jewish Chamber of Commerce and as Director of Business development for a New York based Daily Deal platform. He’s an. Expert at Communication with social media as well as digital marketing and it’s a pleasure to have him on the podcast. Eliav. Welcome.

Eliav Rodman: Hey thanks Saul. Thanks for having me.

Saul Marquez: It’s a pleasure and thank you for joining me so late in your day in Israel. Really appreciate that.

Eliav Rodman: Hey. That’s what keeps me up at night.

Saul Marquez: Literally right.

Eliav Rodman: Literally.

Saul Marquez: So Eliav anything in the intro that I missed that you want to share with the listener?

Eliav Rodman: No you covered kind of who I am. I think that one of the best things about my job about where I work and the people that I meet and I’m sure we’ll get a little bit more into that is that we do something that’s incredible that helps people. And I hope for all the listeners out there that you’re as fortunate as I am to have that feeling of being able to make a positive impact in the world.

Saul Marquez: Absolutely. So why did you decide to get into the medical sector?

Eliav Rodman: Well I came from a background in marketing and specifically in digital marketing. And when the opportunity came to join a company that was at the time just getting started that was going to be doing something huge really revolutionizing assistive technology and bringing wearable artificial intelligence to people who really need it. That was a no brainer. So that’s how I got into this whole thing.

Saul Marquez: Love it. It was a clear path. You saw it. And so before we dive into the hot topic maybe level set with the listeners Eliav on what orCam is and what you guys do.

Eliav Rodman: Great so orCam is a wearable artificial intelligence powerhouse. We’re a company based in Jerusalem Israel and we make a product called orcam myeye is a tiny wearable device. So it’s about the size of your finger and it snaps on to a pair of eyeglasses and it’s got a camera. It’s got a little mini speaker that positions next to the wearer’s ear and it does a couple of cool things. It can read text, it can recognize faces, also products, many notes and colors and a couple more cool things. And what it brings what it does for people is provide independence because it allows people who are blind or visually impaired, partially sighted, or have reading difficulties to access information independently in a way that was never available before.

Saul Marquez: Very cool. So say I’m blind and I’m at the grocery store and I’ve got this thing on I’m at the cash register getting ready to pay. What does it say something to me.

Eliav Rodman: Yeah. So it speaks to when you want it to and this is one of the really cool things about orcam myeye. Not only do our words we said right but think about this if it was constantly telling you everything that it saw. So reading everything and telling you all the faces that it sees now would be a lot of information, probably information overload.

Saul Marquez: Too many and too much.

Eliav Rodman: So what we did was we tapped into our core technology which is artificial vision. So kind of as a subdomain of artificial intelligence, artificial vision is a discipline that allows computers to understand what is contained in an image. And we tapped into that core technological advantage and use it not only for the feature set but also for the user interface. And so what you do is if you’re at the cash register and you’d like to pay and you’re not sure if what you’re holding in your hand is a twenty or fifty dollar bill you can point to the money with your index finger and instantly the camera will snap an image decode it, recognize it, and tell you in your ear twenty dollars or fifty dollars.

Saul Marquez: Nice.

Eliav Rodman: And it works kind of the same way with reading so take any piece of text or a book or magazine a newspaper, point at it, and the camera will instantly start to read. Making accessible all kinds of information that really wasn’t necessarily so accessible before because it’s wearable. You can do that not only with something that you can hold in your hand but you can do it with a sign, on a shop, or a street sign, and tons more examples.

Saul Marquez: Very cool very cool. And you know in today’s world you really have to be open to technologies that are going to help you leverage the quality of life that you live in or camp seems to be doing that in a big way. What would you say that hot topic needs to be on every medical leaders agenda today Eliav. What is it and how are you guys at orCam tackling it?

Eliav Rodman: I think that when it comes to technology assistive technology and bringing it to the people who need it most. There are a number of challenges. One of the things that we’ve focused on at orCam in the past few years is making sure that money is not a barrier and the market out there for assistive technology has plenty of options. For us the challenge has been convincing people to take that leap of faith and start using a device that’s truly 21st century but more than that, taking it up a level and going to whether it’s governments in the United States specifically state agencies and certainly the insurance industry when it comes to making access available to funding, usually funding that already exists and bringing a new a truly cutting edge technology into the infrastructure that allows people to receive a tax asset to receive the subsidies and so on. It’s a formidable challenge and I think that everyone will be well served in bringing down some of those barriers and making new technologies that are making a dramatic impact, positive impact on people’s lives making them a little bit more approachable and accessible.

Saul Marquez: I think that’s so great. And so as you guys start to figure this out I mean one of the biggest challenges in any health care startup is really that that financial piece right, aligning with incentive,s making sure that reimbursement is there. You guys seem to have your finger on the pulse of that. Can you give an example to the listeners how you’re creating results by doing and thinking differently?

Eliav Rodman: Yeah. When it comes to that. First of all I’m very proud to say that so many veterans in the United States who can use our technology are using it and it is covered by the V.A. entirely.

Saul Marquez: That’s awesome.

Eliav Rodman: So and that that is huge. And kudos to V.A. for understanding that this technology is something that is a worthy investment. We were, we appeared on television in the US recently and on recent Veterans Day recently as well with some of the veterans that are really benefiting from our technology we owe so much to these men and women that in a way this is the least we can do. And there are so many more people that can benefit from our technology. I’ll give you one more example that also relates to one of the advantages of the technology that we’ve developed at orCam. We had a guy who was an engineer at NASA and he was able to receive an orcam device as part of a state program that helps people who can use this technology in order to in this case keep a job. So that’s pretty cool right. NASA but one more cool thing about our technology is that because of the way it works, the processing is done locally on the device and so it snaps the image and reads it back to you without relying on the cloud. That’s astounding. I mean in 2018, since talking about technology that’s so advanced and yet not cloud reliant it’s a refreshing change from so much what we’re hearing today. But in this case also you know Houston Hey no problem. You can use an orcam myeye at NASA and not be worried about data became about privacy concerns. And that’s also a huge thing.

Saul Marquez: Yeah. So there’s definitely some perks there from a cyber security perspective keeping everything secure within the device.

Eliav Rodman: Absolutely.

Saul Marquez: Now that’s fascinating. And now what a great thing that you guys are doing for the veterans and kudos to that organization for seeing the value. Like you said but you know ultimately you guys help them see that value a lot of times companies struggle getting that message to them. What did you guys do to to help them see the value?

Eliav Rodman: I think the technology really speaks for itself but in many cases the way this comes about and you know this is definitely a piece of advice for people out there who are looking to introduce new technologies, our best advocates are users and people who are using our device and I give a lot of credit to our early adopters who really test that with us. Back when I joined in 2013, we went out there and had a lot of kind of hands on contact with some of the early adopters of the technology and they became our biggest champions when you know you can listen to me talk about how cool it is all day long but I’m the marketing guy in the company. It’s when people who are using it and relying on it day in and day out. Well we start listening to them then we really understand the value and honor. And it’s interesting. One of the ways in which we realized early on just how impactful this was, was a couple phone calls over the course of the first few months where people called us and said “hey something didn’t you know I dropped it. Whatever comes out working right you need to fix it for me now. Now I mean I rely on this. I need this every school day. You know how do we overnight mean a new one.” And we realize that wow people really rely on this technology that could impact in their day to day lives.

Saul Marquez: I think that’s so cool when you know that what you’re doing is pivotal to somebodies day to day, you know you’re doing the right thing. And so you guys have been doing your thing, it’s expanding. What would you say one of the setbacks you guys have had? What did you learn from that setback that’s made you guys better?

Eliav Rodman: I think that this touches on the last thing that we said about listening to users and I think initially we were very excited to introduce our technology. And initially that the excitement brought us to a point where there were so many things that we wanted to do. And it’s hard to make them all right at once. Yes. So taking a step back introducing things incrementally and listening to user feedback in order to fine tune was definitely the remedy. And especially when you’re talking about a community of people who have a disability, we all have challenges in life and we’re all on some spectrum of ability disability of challenge. Right. But here we and most people our company is proud to have people on the team who are who are blind or visually impaired but most of the people in the company are kind of typically sided individuals. And to be able to tap in and listen to the people that we’re serving is key and then kind of going step by step and bringing the value that they’re looking for is critical to success. And to that end I’m also very proud to say and say we have relationships with the largest organizations representing blind and visually impaired people in the United States and in the world who we cooperate with and involve from the very early stages of development in order to hit the target and to come out with a product a device technology that is truly providing the value and the service that our constituents want.

Saul Marquez: Love that. Now that’s such a great great lesson learned and always goes back to listening to your customers over and over again because it is what matters. So what would you say the other side of that coin is Eliav, what’s one of your proudest moments that you’ve experienced while at orCam?

Eliav Rodman: I was one of the president’s was at last year’s CS conference where we won a competition called last gadget standing and it was a very proud moment standing out there on stage and receiving an award. But more than that I think that it was super exciting for me because I get to meet in my role a lot of people who use our device and who benefit from orcam’s technology and they tell me how how great orcam myeye is to receive the same validation not in a room full of people who need our technology necessarily but you know a roomful of techniques that’s incredible and it shows that the technology is fantastic and also the cause and the benefit we’re bringing to people is fantastic as well. And that was just an amazing experience. Very proud of that.

Saul Marquez: Congratulations. That’s pretty amazing right and the users but also in a room of your peers of inventors and people that are doing awesome stuff and you’re being recognized as the last gadget standing.

Eliav Rodman: Yeah it’s super cool. And David pose a cool guy too. So it was nice to be up there onstage and kind of do a live demo with him. That was thrilling.

Saul Marquez: That’s pretty awesome man. Congrats. What would you say an exciting project within orcam you’re working on today that you want to share with the listeners.

Eliav Rodman: Well we’ve got a couple of really cool things coming up and definitely stay tuned for what else we can do with our technology in addition to our current line of devices. But I won’t give too many spoilers on that. I’ll just say you know think what you would want to do with the ability to recognize faces, text, colors, and so on. If you could walk around with a wearable device that has all these abilities what would you want to do with it. And specifically a project that really too is so when we started off with orcam myeye that it was very clear to us that there are 350 million people in the world who are somewhere on the spectrum of totally blind to have a visual disability or challenge essentially anything any type of condition that simple eyeglasses or refractive lenses can’t treat can’t fix. So 350 million people is huge but we realize there’s a whole other group of people who could benefit from our technology whose problems not in the eyes, not in receiving the visual information itself but actually the processing the brain. And the biggest group of people that we could think of in that category people with dyslexia and we have a version of our automated device called orcam myreader and it’s designed with that in mind as well. And then there’s people who have other problems like aphasia. Often as a result of a stroke those people for whom reading is a priority. And we’re not all necessarily visual people some of us are auditory learners. Something about lawyers or students who have to read you know ridiculous amounts really on a weekly basis…

Saul Marquez: Is there speed on this thing where you could speed it up?

Eliav Rodman: You’d be surprised how fast it can go and I was surprised to learn just how fast people can listen. But in the end it’s about a billion people in the world we think we can help with this technology. And how does the voice sound does it, is it like a robot or is it more human?

Eliav Rodman: It sounds here. I can pop it out and wake it up for you.

Saul Marquez: Let’s hear that would be cool.

Eliav Rodman: Can you hear?

Saul Marquez: I heard waking up lightly.

Eliav Rodman: All right now I’ve got to go into an outside speaker. Alright. So I’ve got external speakers connected and I’m holding it orcam brochure here with a quote from one of our users. Somewhere the point of the text. Camera’s going to see the pointing gesture. Snap an image and just start reading.

Saul Marquez: Oh super cool man. Love that.

Eliav Rodman: It actually works.

Saul Marquez: And it does love the little demo there. Appreciate that. Didn’t mean to put you on the spot but you did really well..

Eliav Rodman: Thanks, I’ve got some experience with this.

Saul Marquez: Yeah I know for sure for sure you do so now appreciate that. And really interesting. You know I was in New York. It was probably about seven years ago and I did this. I forget what it’s called but it was like a blind experience where it’s a complete simulation of New York City and it’s led by, you’re with a group of people and it’s led by a blind person and they put blinders on you and they turn on the lights off and they take you into the park experience into the grocery store the Metro and man I mean it was hard and I couldn’t see anything and they talked to us about how yes some people have been blind their whole lives some people just happen in their adulthood but you have to adapt. And one of the techniques that they did it was the way you fold your money will help you understand what it is and now it’s stuff like this. I mean it’s pretty cool. I’m glad we had you on because hey if you’re listening to this and you’re looking for a solution for either yourself, one of your patients, or anybody in your family, this is a wonderful solution to help get you through the day to day of your life with pleasure rather than than just regret. And so Eliav this has been a really great experience.

Eliav Rodman: Thanks for it. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to spread the word.

Saul Marquez: Absolutely. Now we’re not done yet so. Close to the end. You and I are going to build a leadership course on what it takes to be successful in healthcare. And so I’ve got five questions lightning round style for you followed by a book that you recommend to the listeners. You ready?

Eliav Rodman: I’m ready.

Saul Marquez: All right. What’s the best way to improve healthcare outcomes?

Eliav Rodman: Listen to your constituents patients customers clients.

Saul Marquez: What is the biggest mistake or pitfall to avoid?

Eliav Rodman: Getting ahead of yourself and not being able to follow through on that. Take it one step at a time

Saul Marquez: Love it. How do you stay relevant as an organization despite constant change?

Eliav Rodman: Keep abreast of technology and constantly innovate.

Saul Marquez: What’s one area of focus that drives everything in your organization?

Eliav Rodman: The people. Definitely the people. And that includes the people in our team who are geniuses and will have the pleasure to work with some of the best minds in artificial intelligence today. And the people that use our technology who we are constantly in touch with and listening to. And that is like a killer combo because you have these amazing lines creating this crazy awesome tech. And then you have the people who are guiding your path and telling you “hey work on this next.”.

Saul Marquez: Love that. What is your number one success habit?

Eliav Rodman: Staying clear and focused and meeting the goals you set for yourself.

Saul Marquez: Love that Eliav. Clarity is power. And what book would you recommend to the listeners as part of the syllabus?

Eliav Rodman: Okay. I got to have two here. Okay. The first thing is Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. He’s uhm, actually the privilege of learning with him at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and…

Saul Marquez: Very cool.

Eliav Rodman: Just puts everything in perspective. If you had already there’s tons of things that are supersync in the medical community in there. But in general it’s just kind of puts literally everything in perspective. And I have to add one more in there and that’s a book called the Blind Visionary by Virginia Jacko. And I’ve had the privilege to meet Virginia Jacko. She heads up the Miami Lighthouse for the blind. A fantastic and super interesting woman. And the book she wrote is a really interesting perspective into what it’s like for people who are blind, for people who lost especially people who lost their sight kind of at a later stage in life.

Eliav Rodman: Wow. Some great recommendations there Eliav, I’ve read Sapiens before but I think I’m going to read it again. It’s definitely a great one folks if you haven’t checked it out you get all this material links to the books links to myeye to and all the things that orcam provides at outcomesrocket.health/orcam you’re going to find that there. Eliav, you could just share your closing thoughts and in the best place where the listeners could get in touch that be awesome.

Eliav Rodman: Sure. So my closing thoughts are that when you zoom out a little bit you think about where artificial intelligence is going and the impact it’s going to have in our lives, remember orcam is an example of where artificial intelligence is really leveling the human playing field and making our experience, making our communities, making our existence as human beings on this planet a little bit more equal, a little bit more balanced. And if technology like orcam myeye can take a blind kid who’s 9 years old and give him the hope of what he can be when he grows up right. Having a career. And access to information is key. Then at the end of the day artificial intelligence is going to be a huge amazing thing not some of the scary stuff that we’ve seen on TV lately. But it’s really going to make a positive benefit on humanity at large. And I hope that that ties in for you to some of the things that we talked about today. And about my experience at orcam that I’ve shared with you. But also kind of on a bigger picture about where this world is going. So without being too profound there. You can feel free to get in touch with me on the usual social networks. And LinkedIn’s probably the best one there or go issue an emai it’s just my name, eliav.rodman@orcam.com

Saul Marquez: Outstanding Eliav, great message. You’ve left us with a lot to think about and a lot to continue researching so keep doing what you’re doing. You and your your company over there. You guys are doing some pretty phenomenal stuff. We’re excited. Keep up with you guys and again thanks for spending time with us.

Eliav Rodman: Thank you very much Saul.

Thanks for listening to the Outcomes Rocket podcast. Be sure to visit us on the web at www.outcomesrocket.com for the show notes, resources, inspiration, and so much more.

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