RealNetworks launches AI robocall blocker, aims to ‘lead the charge’ in battle against spam calls

The news: RealNetworks released a new product Wednesday aimed at blocking robocalls, which are on the rise and have become the top consumer complaint to the FCC.

The tech: Called KONTXT for VOICE, the software uses AI models that are trained to predict whether an inbound call is spam based on an analysis of voice and intent. Two “major” telecom companies are using early versions of the product. It builds off KONTXT tech that RealNetworks launched in 2017 to help mobile carriers figure out how to prioritize text message delivery. In a press release, RealNetworks said it aims “to lead the charge in the battle against costly spam and fraud.”

The problem: Robocalls were up 26% year-over-year in February, according to RoboKiller. A report from Hiya — a Seattle startup that also develops tech to block spam calls — noted that scammers exploited the COVID-19 crisis with various scams. Last week the FCC fined two telemarketers $225 million, the largest fine in its history. Fraud calls are not only inconvenient but also cause financial ramifications.

The business: KONTXT for VOICE is the latest product from RealNetworks. The longstanding Seattle-based digital media company became known for its streaming media technology and gaming arm. In 2018 the company rolled out its SAFR facial recognition software that is now being used for public health compliance amid the pandemic.

The company’s revenue for 2020 was $68.1 million, up 3%. RealNetworks said revenue from two key growth areas — its facial recognition technology and free-to-play mobile games — rose 110% on the year. Net loss for 2020 was $4.8 million, an improvement over its net loss of $15.1 million the year before.

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