'Hey, Ortho!': Voice Control Technology Is Coming to Repair Shops

Oct. 24, 2022

Much like Siri and Alexa helps consumers, Ortho brings AI assistance into the shop to help technicians get specific vehicle information on command within seconds.

Imagine this: You’re in your bay preparing to perform an oil change on a 2015 Ford Focus. Unsure of which type of oil you need to complete the job, rather than consult the catalog at your computer, you lift your head and yell, “Hey, Ortho! Which type of oil does this car need?” Then, across the air, a voice audibly replies with the necessary information along with a display on a screen mounted alongside you. 

If this command line sounds familiar, it probably is. Statistica reports an estimated 333 million households use a smart speaker every day--and now you can use one built just for shops to get repair-specific information while working a vehicle. It’s called Ortho. 

Ortho is a hands-free voice assistant smart speaker built for automotive technicians. Its visual display is housed within a Lenovo M10 tablet and is optionally bundled with a microphone and speaker. Its key objective is saving technicians time on repairs thus boosting productivity and efficiency.

“As they look up repair information, they can ask a question with their voice and get an answer. This product lives on a tablet on what we're calling our Ortho kit, and that includes a tablet, which has two microphones, a speaker, and a charging dock as well as a peripheral microphone,” says Kim Conti, vice president of product at RAIN, the parent company for Ortho.  

Technicians can look up repair information related to maintenance and fluid specifications for any vehicle and get an answer within seconds. What makes Ortho different from other voice assistants is where it sources its information. Unlike other smart speakers on the market that source from the internet and leaves the user to select the best resource from a list, Ortho pulls data from an industry-specific database. This means technicians will get the best and most accurate information every time about that specific vehicle. 

“Our underlying data source is Motor[Data], a trusted database. It's basically a data as a service offering with 135 different OEM-approved repair pieces of information from vehicles from 1990 to present day,” says Conti. 

Tom Ham, owner of Auto Centric in Grand Rapids, Michigan, is one of the auto repair shops using this new AI-powered voice-assistant technology in the shop. One of his technicians, Shane Sullivan, has led the charge in trying out the technology. 

“It's just really neat from the standpoint that when he needs certain pieces of information, instead of going back to the computer or wherever, wherever that information might be, you can just simply talk it, and Ortho answers. It's pretty cool,” says Ham. 

Sullivan, a fan of adopting new technology within the shop, says Ortho comes in handy when he needs to find oil capacities, lug nuts, torque specs, oil types, and other fluid lookups. He says it’s as simple as letting Ortho know the vehicle’s VIN and the information is provided. More than anything, the time it takes to walk from the bay to the computer is eliminated.  

“Instead of having to walk back and forth to the computer for diagrams or fluid capacities, I just say, 'Hey, Ortho' and it gives me the fluid capacities,” Sullivan says. “It's a pretty loud speaker, too. It can pretty much be across the shop, and I can still hear it." 

That’s part of the appeal of having Ortho in the shop. It can be used anywhere the technician needs it leaving their hands free to continue working while Ortho provides answers. 

“If they're working with gloves, or they're down in a vehicle, they can simply ask a question into the air and hear an audible answer,” says Conti. “The second thing is, is the hardware itself is mobile. You can undock our tablet, and it's got magnets on the back of it and technicians can hang it up on a pole or on the side of the vehicle or on their carts to keep the Ortho assistant with them throughout the garage.”

Sullivan says the device has lived up to its billing, saving him upwards of a day’s worth of repair time per month. 

“It saves us about one-and-a-half hours to two hours per week on a car. So, we definitely see it adding up to being a very efficient time saver,” he says. 

Once Ortho is made fully available across the market, Ham intends to provide a unit for each of his technicians. 

"As soon as they're good to go, we intend to have every technician have it. I think there are some possibilities where they may get into even service advisors using it; everybody in the building can use it for various pieces of information,” Ham says. 

Vic Tarasik, a former shop owner-turned-coach, says it’s a product he’s advising his clients to use. He believes the product has a high ceiling in its ability to benefit technicians within the shop and increase productivity. 

“I see one of the most important things that Ortho can help out with is improving efficiency and time … Where I see Ortho’s ability to enhance the sale of labor is in its ability to return an answer via voice command. I've had the opportunity to utilize the software, on desktop and mobile, and a VIN scan pulls back accurate data. You don't have to type it in. I see the value as creating much less friction in finding information. The quicker you can access information the more profitable and efficient you become,” says Tarasik. 

Auto Centric 

  • Owner: Tom Ham 
  • Number of Employees:
  • Shop Size: 8,200 square feet 
  • Number of Bays:15  
  • Average Car Count (weekly): 50  
  • Annual Revenue: $1.1 million 
About the Author

Chris Jones | Editor

Chris Jones is the editor of Ratchet+Wrench magazine and host of its companion podcast, Ratchet+Wrench Radio, a weekly show featuring automotive professionals across the auto care landscape.

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