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ORAIN: from small talk to machine talk

Orain

Nowadays, humans are in continuous contact with all kinds of machines. Washing machines, ticket sellers or snack vending machines, for example, are produced to make our tasks effortless and thus solve ordinary problems. However, the majority of these devices are absolutely passive, human – machine interaction being unidirectional and limited. So, what if these machines could communicate just like humans? What about if you could complain to them that your coin just got stuck – again!- or that your coffee isn’t quite of your taste that day?

That is precisely what Orain is trying to achieve. Born in 2005, Orain is a CVC spin-off and its aim is to introduce intelligence in our everyday life machines so that we can talk to them. Xavier Sans, one of its founders, explains that Orain was created almost by chance: “it emerged due to the demand to change a sector which was outdated and in urgent need of evolution. Only two years ago, there was not even the idea of paying on a machine with your smartphone. That’s when we saw a market niche in which we could grow”.

Their beginnings were hand in hand with another company, taking care of all the possible risks. Today, the team is configured by 9 employees (and rapidly growing) with different professional profiles such as developers and computer vision experts along with people in marketing and finance.

How does it work?

Orain allows communication between a vending machine and a smartphone through an application. Users can find information about its products such as ingredients, nutritional values or allergen components. Moreover, they can pay for the product instantly solely with their phones, be it by credit card or PayPal, and maintain a control of their expenses, thus providing an easier, quicker and enhanced user experience.

The benefits of this technology are also for clients. Whereas users obtain a highly positive shopping experience, vending operators receive detailed information about the state of their machines and relevant analytics: habits and consumption patterns, helping them to design effective marketing strategies and increase user loyalty. Furthermore, with this information, they can set up special campaigns or individual promotions in order to boost sales.

The innovative future of Orain

The concept Orain has designed goes far beyond payment methods and consumption analytics. It is thought to become a recurrent system platform with which to pay daily services such as car cleaning, washing machines, tickets, or periodical supermarket purchases. For now, Orain’s technology is operating in almost 300 vending machines and in 50 Office Coffee Services; a number that is rapidly increasing. Its technology will also be implemented in other sectors­ within the near future: “This is Orain’s strength. We want to develop a transversal application that allows us to gain users. We want one sole application to be used everywhere”, as stated by Xavier Sans.

Nevertheless, there’s still much to do. The startup is currently working in improving its services, with a special focus on Natural Language Processing: users speaking to the machine and obtaining an answer: “When you have a human interlocutor you can complain and do certain things that, in any other way, are impossible with machines. For this, we are trying to get close to human interaction”, Mr. Sans explains.

Orain within a human-machine interaction scenario

One of the challenges that Orain has to face is society’s reaction when faced with a human-machine interaction scenario. Sometimes, innovation within the AI field causes controversial opinions and, in some cases, generates fear and insecurity. In this way, the public acceptance of common machines equipped with intelligence can be, at the least, intimidating. “We are trying to make this transition the plainest possible. We have started with simple implementations, such as vending and OCS, but the intention is adding new intelligence step by step. We can’t be disruptive at the beginning because we can lose clients”, as pointed out by Mr. Sans.   

Another way to solve it is normalizing this kind of applications. As Xavier Sans predicts: “The solution is being the standard, which means being implemented massively. If we reach that point, it will be easier for people to comprehend and engage with our technology”.

For more information: orain.io

Nuria Martínez

The author Nuria Martínez

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