Aira Raises $12M to Expand Services for Blind and Visually Impaired

After beta testing technology that provides remote assistant services for the blind, San Diego-based Aira has raised $12 million in a Series B round that it says will enable the company to expand its service to thousands of visually impaired users this year.

Aira takes advantage of the gig economy by connecting online independent contractors (via dedicated wireless bandwidth provided by AT&T) to guide low-vision users equipped with a modified version of Google Glass, the Internet-connected eyewear. Like an air traffic controller, Aira agents talk to users through a speaker in the eyewear to guide them through their surroundings, read menus, shop, and provide other real-time assistance.

The company developed the service with the help of the AT&T Foundry for Connected Health in Houston. After raising $3.3 million early last year, Aira tested its technology with about 300 users, founding CEO Suman Kanuganti said Thursday afternoon. They include Erich Manser, who used Aira’s technology to help run the Boston Marathon in April. Continue reading

The Saga of Flight 1241

Last week I wrote an article discussing the decline of customer oriented services by airlines in the United States. I promise to tell my own personal story of a recent trip I took involving an airline. Now it’s time for me to tell the tale. You won’t believe what happened.

On April 23, 2017 I flew on American Airlines to Gulfport Mississippi to attend a meeting the following day. While I had planned to fly back in the evening of April 24 I was unable to do so as, at least from my computer searches, American Airlines, my airline of choice, had no flights available for me. I decided to take the first flight out from Gulfport on Tuesday morning of April 25. At 6 AM I left Gulfport Mississippi on AA flight 5788. We arrived in Dallas-Fort Worth right on time. I went to my gate for my second flight, AA 1241, which was to leave at 8:44 AM Central daylight Time. Continue reading

AMC Theaters Agrees to Improve Services for Blind Movie-Goers

AMC Theatres Logo

San Francisco, CA – April 28, 2017 – AMC Theaters (AMC) has reached an agreement with several blind individuals, the California Council of the Blind (CCB), and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco (LightHouse) to ensure blind customers have reliable access to audio description services at AMC movie theaters nationwide.

Audio description is a verbal description of the visual events on screen, which plays between pauses in dialogue. Many movies come with audio description tracks, and customers who are blind or visually impaired can listen to audio description through special headsets that are available at the theatres. With audio description, people who are blind and visually-impaired can fully enjoy the important and beloved American pastime of going to the movies. Continue reading

Service? What is That?

Like most Americans I have been appalled and mystified by the recent treatment of passengers by U.S.-based airlines. A doctor was dragged off one aircraft even though he had a paid and ticketed seat because the airline over booked and wanted his seat to transport a crew member to meet a flight. Another airline kicked a family off a flight because the airline wanted a seat, (appropriately paid for), that was occupied by a child. Another airline totally mishandled a situation in which a passenger put a baby stroller in the overhead compartment. There have been other incidences just as horrific as these, but time and space does not permit me to cite them all. Continue reading