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Vision loss affects more than 25 million adult Americans, according to the National Foundation for the Blind. As part of its focus on improving the lives of those with disabilities, Samsung has partnered with Aira on a unique mobile-powered solution to assist low-vision people, and the results are very exciting.
Imagine walking into a pharmacy to pick up some vitamins. You find the right aisle and peruse the selection. A number of items are on sale and you want to compare their prices and active ingredients. You pick up one bottle after the other, do quick comparisons and find the one that meets your needs. You check out and leave the store.
Now imagine doing the same thing as a person who is blind or low vision. The experience is far more challenging, often forcing you to rely on in-person help from someone, be it a family member, friend, aide or store clerk.
Aira (pronounced eye-rah) is changing that. Aira offers a service that remotely connects blind and low-vision people with a professional agent via a smartphone app or their Horizon Smart Glasses paired with a Samsung Galaxy smartphone. For Aira, the partnership was the most logical choice given Samsung’s long-standing history of offering mobile healthcare solutions to businesses that serve the needs of seniors and people with physical challenges.
Samsung Galaxy smartphones are custom configured to work seamlessly with the smartglasses and Aira, allowing the user to connect to an agent at the touch of a button. With the smartphone’s camera or smart glasses, the agent sees what’s in front of the individual and can identify objects, read text, help with navigation and more.
Technology for the Blind and Low-Vision (Simplified!)
The Aira smart glasses set arrives as a single package designed to be easily opened and set up. The package contains the smart glasses, a cable, the Galaxy smartphone and instructions (which include braille). The user can assemble all the pieces in less than 30 seconds, turn on the device and begin with artificial intelligence assistant Chloe to help them get started.
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When initial connection is complete, Chloe announces that Aira is ready for service. The user taps the button on the phone, which initiates the first call with an agent. The first call becomes an on-boarding session during which general information is gathered about the user. This includes everything from broad preferences such as the level of detail required during interactions to more specific information like food allergies that the agent should be aware of. All information is logged and available to agents for every future interaction. This process takes about 30 minutes, and gives the user a chance to connect with an agent, understand how all the technology works and get any other questions answered.
Making the World Easier to Navigate
“We’re on a mission to make the world more accessible,” says Kevin Phelan, VP of sales and marketing for Aira. “Technology has transformed so much of our daily lives, and we believe that everybody should be included as society becomes increasingly connected via technology.”
Aira believes they are making strides in that direction — and they’re not alone in that assessment. The company’s solution was named by Time as one of the best inventions of 2018. People in the blind and low-vision community agree. “The overwhelming feedback has been that Aira opens up new possibilities for independence. Even for things as simple as cooking dinner, or reading your kids a bedtime story, instant access to visual information can make a big difference,” says Phelan.
Individuals access this technology to meet personal needs, but organizations are finding Aira useful as well. The service is being offered in places like college campuses, retail outlets, government facilities and other large venues via Aira Access. For example, more than 30 U.S. airports, including Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, allow people to access the service for free. Wegman’s grocery stores and Walgreens Pharmacies provide the same service, and AT&T Stadium in Dallas allows free access during concerts, events and Dallas Cowboys home games.
Phelan says, “Every day, people who use Aira tell us about something they’ve done or a new experience they’ve tried because of our service. We’re really proud of the technology we’re building, and our work for a more inclusive future.”