Kilroy Blockchain introduces users to a new world using cognitive technology in the Watson Build Challenge

Pictured above: Karen Kilroy, Julie Heeg and Lynn Riley

IBM Business Partner Kilroy Blockchain was the 2017 Watson Build North America Geography Champion. The company earned the accolade for Riley – RealLife Adventure, an innovative “Sighted Assistant” app that uses Watson APIs to enable the visually impaired to more deeply participate with the world around them and enjoy an enriched life experience. (Pictured above: Karen Kilroy, Julie Heeg and Lynn Riley)

Technology is a force that has reinvented the world we live in—in many ways, for the better. And that side of the equation, the humanitarian side, was on my mind when we came up with our solution idea and put together our business plan to compete in the Watson Build Challenge in Spring 2017.

In a way, the incredible professional journey my firm embarked on last year started simply from a hobby of mine here in Austin, Texas: I’m a dragon boat coach. A dragon boat is a 41-foot long boat with a dragon’s head and tail. It’s an ancient sport that originated in China. Here in the US it’s used a lot for healing purposes, and I’ve coached those types of teams for years. Over the last two years, I’ve had the unique experience of coaching a team of kids from the Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, and the team we have is 18-year-olds to 21-year-olds with all different types and levels of blindness or visual impairments.

It was actually just the way the kids were using their smartphones that started me thinking about the possibility of creating a cognitive app that could help enable new and deeper user experiences. This seemed really exciting to me, because the right application would have the potential to open up a new world of interaction and information for the visually impaired. Back at the office, my team and I got to work on refining our solution idea.

To our delight and amazement, we succeeded in getting the go-ahead for our concept and business plan through the Watson Build Challenge. It was completely thrilling to know that we were actually going to be able to build our Riley “Sighted Assistant” mobile app with IBM’s encouragement and support!

Overcoming challenges through Watson Build
When it came time to build the solution, we ran into some surprising challenges. As we’re primarily a blockchain company, and we’d never built anything like this mobile app before, it was a leap of faith and a big push for us to meet the deadlines. But we appreciated the discipline forced on us by the Watson Build Challenge. The program galvanized our focus.

I’d like to particularly thank Julie Heeg and Parth Yadav from IBM for helping us pivot and get answers when we hit the occasional brick wall. In the end, we made it through to the prototype phase quite quickly.

Moving from prototype to the Riley – RealLife Adventure mobile app launch
When you think about a product that can help people who are blind see with their smartphones, that’s kind of a magical thing. And it’s all made possible though the Watson APIs for visual recognition, voice, image recognition and crucially, the Watson Content Hub. That we were able to build it because of the Watson Build Challenge is a testament to how being forced to push yourself a little harder to do your best can deliver extraordinary results.

Now available as a free app in the marketplace since December 2017, Riley – RealLife Adventure is an interactive, mobile experience built with Watson on IBM Cloud. Thanks to Watson’s learning capabilities, which draw data from the Watson Content Hub continuously, the app supports the blind and visually impaired with real-time geolocation and audio descriptions of each user’s particular surroundings. Ongoing learning is a function of the technology that is constantly updated, and can be expanded upon.

The expansion into small, open source applications that interoperate with one another is where I think opportunity can be found. When you combine technologies like blockchain, visual recognition and conversation, you can come up with an almost infinite number of end results and possibilities.

Offering a little advice to future Watson Build participants
If you’re reading this and you’re an IBM Business Partner who is wondering whether to participate in the 2018 Watson Build Challenge, I have two simple words: Do it! It gave us a framework and structure to really think through our solution idea. In the process of becoming the 2017 Watson Build North America Geography Champion, we believe we were able to raise the bar on our capabilities. And now we’re pretty much unstoppable!

For more info, please visit our website at and follow Kilroy Blockchain on Twitter: @kilroyblckchain



To download the Apple version of Riley – RealLife Adventure, click here.

To download the APKPure version of Riley – RealLife Adventure, click here.