After years, if not decades, of barely hanging onto its “next big thing” status, technology fueled by artificial intelligence is finally having its moment. And that moment has a lot to do with the early buzz generated by a product called ChatGPT.
Developed by the artificial intelligence lab OpenAI and benefiting from some generous, prescient funding from Microsoft, ChatGPT, as The New York Times recently put it, “is a chatbot that can automatically respond to written prompts in a manner that is sometimes eerily close to human.” Presumably, it will also one day be able to drive children to ballet lessons in boring suburbs with no cool bars or pick out creative gifts for spouses of 30 years when mortal capacity to do the same has long since been tapped.
In the here and now, ChatGPT can definitely write your daughter’s 10th-grade essay or trick you into thinking that you’re talking to a human on the other end of that online chat with your cable provider. It can also make the internet far more hospitable to people with disabilities, as one Israeli company’s latest effort is determined to show.
But for mobile sports bettors with disabilities, the future still may be a way’s off.
‘Basically a game-changer’
In thinking about the challenges a person with disabilities might have when attempting to get a bet down, one might assume it’s brick-and-mortar sportsbooks that aren’t especially inviting to people of this stripe. But as Josh Basile, a C4-5 quadriplegic, told Sports Handle in September, the retail books are typically very accommodating. Rather, it’s mobile sportsbooks that have a lot of work to do in this regard, as their sites and apps are often either difficult to use or flat-out inaccessible for people with various physical or sensory impairments and conditions.
Basile, who suffered his life-altering injury in a boogie-boarding accident off the coast of Delaware, works for a company called accessiBe that focuses on helping online enterprises come into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act. The Israeli-based Equally AI, co-founded by CEO Ran Ronen, does the same sort of thing on a global scale.
Both companies, as well as others in this cottage industry, employ artificial intelligence to help customers make their products more user-friendly to people with disabilities. But Equally AI is about to become the first to integrate ChatGPT into its problem-solving protocol through a product called Flowy.
To break Flowy down to its simplest components, Equally AI developers filter various data points through ChatGPT — problems that need solving and potential fixes, along with any attendant code — and out pops a more cohesive solution than just about any group of humans could have imagined coming up with in an efficient manner.
“In order to make a website accessible, you need to scan your website and find issues — elements that are not built according to standards,” Ronen explained. “It’s a lot of work. All of the automated tools are not enough because you need to test some things with screen readers.
“ChatGPT is basically a game-changer. When we find an issue, we can give ChatGPT all the information — this is the issue, this is what we think is the solution. Now I can pass in more information — the content of the website, the framework of the website, the level of my accessibility. Then I can give it to ChatGPT and it will basically analyze all of the information and come up with a better solution for me.”
A worldwide web shortcoming
Both Basile and Ronen’s companies are quick to trot out a galling statistic: Only 3% of the internet is fully accessible to people with disabilities. Depending on a country’s laws, this leaves up to 97% of the internet susceptible to litigation for not ensuring that all people have equal access to the same information.
Thus far, U.S. entities have largely pushed the issue aside. As for where his company is headquartered, Ronen said, “Israel was the first country to announce a very aggressive fine system against websites that are not accessible. In two years, almost every website in Israel has become accessible.”
In the gaming space, Equally AI has several e-commerce and UK-based lottery clients — but no sportsbooks.
“It’s too bad, because I feel like if those companies would be able to say, ‘We’re not only accessible, but we’re the first that’s accessible,’ it would create a very good social impact,” said Ronen.
A week ago, Ronen announced on LinkedIn that he would grant early access to Flowy to anyone who replied that they were interested. Among the respondents were executives from Google, Meta, TikTok, State Farm, and 888, the Israeli-based gaming company that operates SI Sportsbook in the United States.
If a scintilla of encouragement is what’s needed, there it is. But how long it will take for this technology to reach the hands of American bettors is anyone’s guess.