The advancements for the blind have come a long way since braille was invented in 1819. Aira (pr. EYE-rah) is currently assisting 400 visibly impaired subscribers effectively “see” the world around them. Where white canes and guide dogs fall short, Aira virtually assists the blind do day to day tasks. Simple things like finding the correct entrance of an building, checking if milk has expired, and enjoying a comic book are all doable with the help of Aira.
Source: Aira. An agent can quickly read off a menu for a user in a coffee shop, differentiate between different creams, and other “on the go” tasks that are nearly impossible for the blind.
Aira is the brain child of Suman Kanuganti and the wearable was created in 2013. It was originally an experiment hedging off of Google Glass and OnStar technvology. Aira uses smart glasses that then pairs to a phone which hooks a user up with an agent. Similar to Uber, there are hundreds of agents waiting to assist the Aira users at a moments notice. There are currently two payment plans: for $129 a month the user gets 200 minutes with an agent and for $199 a month they get 400 minutes with an agent and a guaranteed agent response within 10 seconds. Similar wearables are on the market but lack the quick response time and practicability of Aira. Aira has strong support from a team of heavy hitting advisers like Google’s John Lee and venture capital firms such as Lux Capital and Arch Venture Partners.
Source: AIRA. An agent is ready to assist the user and has full view of the surroundings.
There are similar blind-assistance programs on the market but few are as personable and convenient as Aira. MyEye is one of their competitors, but this device incorporates a small earpiece and camera that is all AI run. With a live agent there is a more personal touch and gives the user the most control coupled with privacy. With the advancements with wearable technology, Aira is looking to eventually incorporate virtual assistance technology like Siri at some point though. To reach a broader audience and help as many blind individuals as possible, Aira is pushing towards getting their device covered by insurance as well.