RealNetworks releases its first hardware product, a kiosk that checks for proper facemask usage

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A new MaskCheck kiosk in the lobby at the RealNetworks headquarters in Seattle, demonstrated by Frederick Savoy, Vice President of Consumer, Media and Cloud. (RealNetworks Photo)

From its early days as a streaming audio pioneer to its recent expansion in facial recognition technology, RealNetworks has focused on software and services throughout its 27-year history. But the pandemic is prompting many companies to try new things, and the software mainstay is coming to hardware for the first time.

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Real Networks’ New MaskCheck Kiosk, debuting Wednesday for a starting price of $995, promises to quickly and reliably detect whether passersby are wearing facemasks. A little over 4 feet high, and 27 pounds strong, the MaskCheck kiosk uses the pre-installed iPad 8. An internal battery in the base charges when plugged in, and lasts up to three days.

The idea is to encourage and reinforce appropriate facemask use, ideally leaving it to technology that could become awkward or confrontational conversations.

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“We are not trying to make any kind of political statement here,” RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser said in a virtual demonstration at 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 businesses and organizations that don’t want the hassle of coming up with their own temporary ways of setting up or positioning a tablet running MaskCheck in stores, restaurants, schools, hospitals, offices or other public settings. Were.

New MaskCheck Kiosk. (RealNetwork Photos)
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RealNetworks says MaskCheck works in less than a second with over 90% accuracy, providing visual and audio cues that let passersby know if they are wearing a mask properly.

Glaser said RealNetworks chose MaskCheck kiosks for a much lower price than existing mask-detection devices, which can sell for $2,500 or more. The company is not losing money on the product, but it is not making much, he said.

The regular price outside the initial promotion will be $1,195. kiosk can be bought online For delivery in the US and Canada.

MaskCheck software too automatically available for free. It is based on RealNetworks’ SAFR TECHNOLOGY, which is used in other scenarios for facial recognition. However, the company says that the MaskCheck app does not use facial recognition or try to identify the person.

Locations can decide whether to use MaskCheck to passively collect data on wearing a mask; to give visual reminders about wearing a mask properly; Or using the app to help enforce compliance, preventing people from entering a particular location unless they are wearing a mask properly.

RealNetworks has collaborated with MaskCheck COVID-19 International Research Team, a coalition of scientists coordinating COVID-19 related projects, including research that has demonstrated the efficacy of masks in slowing the spread of the virus that causes the disease.

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

RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser in 2017 (Geekwire Photo/Nate Levy)

Facial recognition and artificial intelligence are areas of growth for Real Networks, with revenue from SAFR up 282% in the second quarter, which ended June 30. Total revenue for the company declined 8% to $14.6 million The second quarter reported a net loss of $1.4 million.

RealNetworks’ established lines of business are consumer media licensing and subscriptions, including video codec technology and its RealPlayer software; services and technologies for mobile carriers; and casual video games for mobile devices and computers.

Now that RealNetworks has tried its hand at hardware, does the company have additional tools, 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 goes. Giant redwoods sometimes grow out of tiny acorns, so you never know.”

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