Pramit Bhargava graduated from prestigious engineering and management institutions in India and had an exciting career with many large multinational companies. An unexpected incident changed this practically overnight.
The side effect of a drug he took in 1999 affected his retina, causing his eyesight to deteriorate dramatically since then. Until 2012 he couldn’t read anything that made him unhappy and didn’t know what to do. This low point was completely unexpected, especially for someone who had studied at the prestigious Indian engineering and management institutions (IIT and IIM) and worked for global companies such as Unilever, Motorola and Quest Diagnostics. He couldn’t come to terms with this situation.
A few years later, Pramit built a voice-based interface for the visually impaired so they could do a lot with just their cell phones.
The inspiration for Louie Voice Control was a simple crossing. One day a sighted friend booked a crossing for Pramit. To book the trip, the friend kept asking Pramit questions and making the appropriate selection in the Uber app. The booking was completed within a few minutes! Based on this experience, Pramit wondered how important it would be for the visually impaired to have the phone read out menu options, accept their verbal responses as input, and make the booking. With that “aha” moment, Pramit got to work and formed a team that Louie built.
Louie is an accessibility app and can be used by all language lovers including, but not limited to, the visually impaired, the blind, the motor impaired, the elderly, those with limited manual dexterity and all hands-free enthusiasts. The idea is simple: a blind user gives instructions for an app with just one voice and the action is taken immediately – regardless of whether they book a ride with Uber, read and answer texts on the phone or find a video on YouTube.
How is Louie different from other popular intelligent assistants like Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant? For starters, none of the existing services can do what Louie can:
- Voice assistants are usually superficial and allow you to do only 2-3 things within an app. In comparison, Louie is an app completely voice-controlled – every single function of it.
- Leading language assistants or personal assistants have a bad habit of being silent now and then. In comparison, Louie has a continuous two-way interaction – just like human interaction
In short, Louie is about operating popular apps and being able to do everything within those apps using voice commands. Starting today, Louie supports YouTube, WhatsApp, Uber, contacts and phone calls. More apps are in development.
Although Louie is currently in beta, it is already a hit with the visually impaired community around the world. Pramit made the beta version of the app available for free so that blind users can use it and get feedback from them on what can be improved. Through Louie, Pramit is building a community of users in over 70 countries who are excited about the prospect of using Louie every day. The “Early Access” version of the app can be downloaded from the Google Playstore.
The team of developers and testers at Pramit are working hard to make Louie available to everyone. Stay tuned for more updates as Louie will not only become a reality for many, but a way of life too!
There are two videos below – the first shows Pramit and explains Louie and how it works. The second is an interview with Pramit where we talk in depth about what Louie is, Pramit’s vision for how he wants to scale it, possible prices, and how Louie can easily become a blind person’s virtual companion.
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