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WATERTOWN, MA – JANUARY 23, 2018 – Beginning today, Perkins School for the Blind is the first campus in the country to collaborate with Aira, the creator of new wearable technology that provides real-time, live visual assistance to individuals with blindness or low vision. Perkins’ collaboration with Aira marks the official launch of the Aira Campus Network.
Aira, which connects users instantly with a network of trained agents via smart glasses or a mobile app, will be available to subscribers at no cost while on Perkins' 38-acre campus. Users can request navigational support, assistance with office or classroom tasks and much more with the press of a button. Once connected, Aira agents can view the world from the user's point of view (via the camera embedded in the smart glasses or smartphone) and deliver real-time auditory narrative or assist with other services on request.
Perkins, a pioneer in driving innovative solutions to real-world problems faced by people with blindness and low vision, piloted the Aira technology with several staff members in 2017. In collaborating with Aira today, Perkins hopes to increase the accessibility of its campus for visitors, staff and students.
"Aira gives users who are blind an important new way to see what’s around them," said Perkins President and CEO Dave Power. "This new capability can help overcome many barriers to employment, education, independent living and social interaction. People with blindness and low vision often rely on a variety of tools to navigate daily life. This is a valuable addition to their toolkit."
Perkins is Aira’s first campus-based collaboration, and Aira CEO Suman Kanuganti said his team was excited to bring a new level of accessibility to everyday challenges faced by the blind and low vision community.
"Introducing the Aira Campus Network to enhance the campus experience for users of all ages is a dream come true for me,” said Kanuganti. "With such a rich history in the blind and low vision community, we couldn’t be more proud that Perkins School for the Blind is the first school to join the Aira Campus Network. Our team is excited to bring a new level of efficiencies to the work, learning and campus life of Perkins students, staff and visitors."
The collaboration is the latest in Perkins’ efforts to develop, test and advocate for solutions that address challenges in education, employment and daily living, with the goal of better empowering people to participate in and contribute to society. Last fall, Perkins launched BlindWays, a free iPhone app developed by Perkins with a user-centered design methodology. BlindWays provides crowdsourced navigational clues to help bus riders with visual impairments locate outdoor bus stops more precisely.
"Too many new products fail for a lack of user input,” said Power. "Understanding the user’s experience is paramount to developing truly life-changing devices and services. Perkins is thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate with a developer who shares our commitment to solving real-world problems.”
Perkins teacher Kate Katulak is one of several staff members who piloted Aira, using the service to locate buildings and read paper documents at meetings. Aira has also helped Katulak feel more confident utilizing ride services such as Uber.
"I just scan the area while wearing my glasses and the Aira assistant can locate the car based on the vehicle description," she said. "Drivers don’t always know to look for someone with a white cane, but this way, I can find the correct car myself."
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Perkins School for the Blind
Since 1829, Perkins’ global mission has fostered access and inclusion through education. We are committed to preparing our students for the world – and the world for our students – because we believe every person can maximize their independence and fulfill their unique potential. Learn more at Perkins.org.
Aira is AI + AR for the blind. Aira combines the power of artificial intelligence and augmented reality with wearable technologies, plus the interaction of its network of trained remote human assistants, to provide the 300 million blind and low vision people around the globe immediate access to information and assistance. Aira’s technology not only greatly enhances independence and mobility for those with vision loss, but also forms the basis of its endeavor to create smart cities that are accessible for all. Aira is powered by the AT&T network. Learn more at aira.io.