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The Future Is Now: Now you can turn any article into a podcast, With Eric H. Weingartner and Fotis Georgiadis

My sense is, if I can achieve, with my team, what I set out to do, I may ultimately have the attribute of being a great influencer. To that end, one of our pursuits is to create a voice-first interface that is truly interactive and productive. It needs to incorporate qualities that makes it simple […]



My sense is, if I can achieve, with my team, what I set out to do, I may ultimately have the attribute of being a great influencer. To that end, one of our pursuits is to create a voice-first interface that is truly interactive and productive. It needs to incorporate qualities that makes it simple and obvious as well as discoverable. This will go beyond our audio news and content reader. This opportunity still remains available. We still need a ubiquitous voice-first interface where humans can talk to machines and be as productive as they are with the graphical user interface we’ve come to rely on. To be a movement, this voice interface needs to be one that we use everywhere, every day and doesn’t need to resemble how we, humans, talk to each other. Then, this will be a movement that will change society.


I had the pleasure of interviewing Eric H. Weingartner. Eric has created a patented hands-free, voice interface, called Voicecaster, that is interactive and simple to use. He has been working with his company, Intelligently Interactive, for the past several years to establish a publishing platform that utilizes the voice interface while providing publishers with the ability to simultaneously publish in audio as they publish on the web. He is passionate about technology and what new opportunities exist that will aid in advancing everyone in their daily lives.


Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I love technology and have been a computer consultant supporting Macintosh computers for almost 30 years. The Mac, its interface and Apple’s approach to technology while having a “human interface design philosophy” has been the model for me. I have also found that having a ringside seat to the commercial advent of the Internet to be profoundly impacting.

About 10 years ago, it occurred to me that we had existing technology to voice-enable the text in the world around us with huge implications on society. What I mean by voice-enabling text in the world around us is having a computer recognition system that would recognize the text that we see when we look around (like the keypad on a microwave, road signs, the on-screen TV cable guide and books titles on the spines of books on a bookshelf) and be able to act upon it. I called it the Interactive Data Recognition system, and this was before Siri. IDR would work with everything that has text: a webpage that could be brought up by voice-control and read aloud, hands-free; cooking with a recipe on a computer; capturing a phone number off the TV screen and banking on a website using voice.

I even anticipated having the future system running on a robot where it would recognize the keypad on a microwave or dishwasher and be able to fetch the instruction manual from the Internet, so the robot could learn how to work the appliance. IDR would also be able to scrape the text of the ingredients off a cereal box and look for those that someone might be allergic to or to read the medicine and directions on a pill bottle. I went so far as to take a picture of a hand lotion bottle, turned it into a black and white picture, saved it as a PDF file and ran the file through an OCR program to recognize the text — and it worked! I now had a small proof of concept.

Several years in, I would meet with various people in an effort to get my tech venture off the ground. Despite being a computer consultant, I didn’t know anyone who did computer programming. The key motto that kept me motivated came from an email of my spouse’s boss which discussed perseverance. Today, my tech startup has the only truly hands-free audio news and content reader that offers hands-free access to many popular websites.

Furthermore, we have created something that easily voice-enables websites, both from the hands-free control aspect to the audio playback of its content as text-to-speech. You now don’t need to know how to read or need to be able to look at a screen or touch it to access much of the Internet’s vast amount of information. Furthermore, publishers can simultaneously publish their content in audio without additional costs or needing time to prepare it for audio.

And I can wash dishes and listen to the newspaper, hands-free!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your company?

When we started working on, what would become our fully hands-free reader, after the first version was out, I was grappling with how using a voice-only interface requires a different mindset. Listening to things and responding becomes harder for several reasons relating to memory and brain function. I focused on this as I developed the voice interface for our audio reader, Voicecaster®. But I had no firsthand knowledge of how a blind person uses an iPhone.

After working for about a year-and-a-half and accomplishing a simple but completely hands-free solution, I met with the director of sponsored technology programs for the National Federation of the Blind. I was there to do a demo. Incidentally, I had received feedback from an advisor who is blind who had used the two versions of our app, but I had never sat with a blind person and watched how they interacted with it, or the iPhone for that matter, by using its accessibility features. I was truly amazed. I did not realize that blind people use the screen more than sighted people, even with Siri. With Apple’s accessibility features, one swipes back and forth, anywhere on the screen, moving down the screen from button to button while tapping to select and activate a button.

I was delighted to see that Voicecaster predominately worked and that it had passed the test for use (by screen) with a blind person. This, despite all my efforts to create a voice-first (using speech primarily over all other modes) interface having presumed that the screen was not used by blind people.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on with my idea, I worked with a handful of talented people to home in on a solution to access content. Our original solution worked based on our knowledge and understanding of the available technology known to our group. Some of what we did was very much outside of my direct skillset, yet I was none-the-less thrilled to see the results — a proof of concept for my proposed audio news reader.

I also had a vague idea there was another approach, but I somehow ignored that idea because of the excitement for the progress my team had made. It wasn’t until a year later when an advisor brought up our progress as being, in reality, limited and cumbersome because we had developed our own technology. He mentioned the other idea and it’s the solution we use today. This ultimately advanced our work much faster and it’s a critical component to why we can easily voice-enable just about every content website on the Internet.

I wouldn’t say that this is a funny mistake in the realm of humor, but rather one that reminds me that I’m human. These mistakes, while apparent when happening, only seem to reveal themselves when other perspectives have a chance to be seen.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I feel we have great ideas (ones that really are destined to come about, like voice-enabling text in the world around us) and the true belief that I work with talented people who can make this happen. I also realize, that as a company, we’re process-oriented and don’t shoot from the hip. We try to evaluate our options and see how an approach to something can be generalized so that we have a rationale and a consistent method that will serve us under other, but similar, circumstances.

Early on, we were considering a relationship with a publisher that had a focused, political bent. When discussing whether to proceed with them in an internal conversation with advisors, it was apparent that we needed to establish a protocol for selecting content providers to ensure we remained balanced with our content offering. Merely picking and choosing publishers based upon an opportunity alone wasn’t going to offer us a sound approach or foster a good reputation.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Overall, I believe that a sense of thriving comes from work that involves learning something new at every step in the process while taking stock of small successes to fight the feeling of burn-out. Staying engaged with each process can offer a feeling of vitality.

Some of my enthusiasm comes from the fruits of my labor and this too has helped keep me upbeat. I’m truly amazed that I can feed my mind with information when I would otherwise not have been able to before Voicecaster. I use Voicecaster almost every day while performing tasks or chores, like washing dishes, preparing and eating breakfast or on the subway. This is a big personal benefit from persevering and being resilient to the challenges I’ve faced so far.

I also want success. I want our novel technology to have the opportunity to be used by millions of people, allowing them to listen to news and other content that they would normally read while having the opportunity to do so in circumstances they’ve never been able to before. I believe this will happen eventually (we have self-driving cars, so why can’t we have all our content read to us) and I want to be part of the team that brings this about. Maintaining my focus on this offers me a sense that I’m working on something bigger than myself and helps me stay enthusiastic.

Doing interesting work with interesting people is inspiring. Looking for opportunities to learn from other talented people and to participate in a different aspect of society and business is personally rewarding. It helps to remember that having ventured to bring an idea to life, many other opportunities do follow. I also think that it’s important to evaluate whether the curves that are thrown at us, the ones that are personally taxing, are truly deal- breakers. Then concentrate on seeking alternatives to keep the momentum moving forward and keep from burning out.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

When I shared my story on how I had overlooked simpler technology for building our proof-of-concept by focusing on my team’s progress and success, I didn’t share how truly grateful I am for the advice I got from one of our advisors. He basically said, look over there and see if that will work. That five-minute discussion changed the trajectory of our company and has enabled us to be where we are today with our hands-free audio reader.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I certainly do not feel I’ve achieved success, but rather, small victories. However, I am proud of creating a novel, voice-first interface that’s simple for anyone to use because it primarily relies on a single word to control the audio playback. To date, I know of no other solution out there as easy as ours, despite all the efforts of the tech titans and their voice technologies. For my efforts, I have been awarded three patents. I’m equally proud that with my interface and the standardized approach to capturing web content, I’ve created a method that can voice-enable a large portion of the Internet. I also see something truly remarkable for being able to also offer accessibility features to that same content. It allows everyone, young, old, sighted, blind, literate, and illiterate access to information and acquire knowledge like never before. Now, I just need to get the word out about this!

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that was relevant to you in your life?

I’ve often heard something to the effect that, “It’s all about the journey and not about being there.”

I have no way of knowing if I’ll ever achieve mega success (which seems to be how success is defined by societal measures) with our technology. I do, however, feel very fulfilled in my pursuits and accomplishments, to date, and believe that, when it’s time to move on from this phase in my life (with or without “mega success”), my journey will have been more fulfilling than any other one that I can imagine having followed. I’ve learned so much about technology, how tech fits into civilization and our social evolution — so much more than I ever would have, had I not ventured with my idea.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me before I started my company” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

Even if you can advance things by being self-funded, don’t put off trying to raise capital, because you may need it at some point, and then you’re playing catch-up to establish those relationships. I have been mostly self-funded and am now squarely focused on raising outside capital, an endeavor that is truly harder than I imagined and one that is critical to our current phase.

There are enough tools to create a demonstration of an idea as proof-of-concept; a working prototype may not be the only way to demonstrate this. I’ve found that working on the prototype can take more time where the demo can be just as effective. We have a great app with our audio reader which took a year-and-a-half to create. We continue to advance our voice interface, however, to bring more people into our sphere as fast as possible, we know that we can effectively show where we’re going with a demo rather than waiting to share it when we’ve completed it.

You won’t know what you’ll really be doing and how you’ll be doing it until you actually do it. Pursuits serve to guide us however the nuts and bolts of our endeavors are what come about once we’ve actually done something. These can be very different from the pursuits. This has been the case with my startup. I envisioned voice-enabling text in the world around us and wanted to create a voice-first interface to do this. What we’re actually doing right now aligns with the original pursuits, however, it somehow feels different due to a better understanding of what it takes to make a product.

It’ll take more people to advance your company than you can imagine. I’ve come to realize that it’s a numbers game and for us to advance, it takes a web of contacts and their contacts as well as theirs to build momentum. This is an ongoing pursuit that never ends.

The feeling of success is ephemeral where each milestone is just that, a milestone. The feeling of being successful will really be very different and I imagine it won’t feel ephemeral. For me, success will be measured by how many people ultimate use and embrace our technology. I truly feel we can change the world with it and when this happens, I’ll feel a sense of success. Until then, I’m going to do my best to shout from the mountain top telling whoever will listen, that they can feed their mind with content they would normally read, while multitasking, in a manner they couldn’t before we came along.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

My sense is, if I can achieve, with my team, what I set out to do, I may ultimately have the attribute of being a great influencer. To that end, one of our pursuits is to create a voice-first interface that is truly interactive and productive. It needs to incorporate qualities that makes it simple and obvious as well as discoverable. This will go beyond our audio news and content reader. This opportunity still remains available. We still need a ubiquitous voice-first interface where humans can talk to machines and be as productive as they are with the graphical user interface we’ve come to rely on. To be a movement, this voice interface needs to be one that we use everywhere, every day and doesn’t need to resemble how we, humans, talk to each other. Then, this will be a movement that will change society.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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