are you familiar with the app „Be my Eyes“? Sounds very much like Aira. But I 
don’t know if Be my Eyes is available outside of Europe. Is it in the US App 

All the best

> Am 07.04.2018 um 20:26 schrieb Vaughn Brown <jazzdress...@gmail.com>:
> Hi,
> I, too, use AIRA and inf it very, very helpful. I am now able to take
> on responsibilities such as sorting mail, reading print lables, and
> getting guidance to an unfamiliar locations. Thank you for sharing
> this. I, too, experienced a leap in independence. Not to mention my
> laydfriend can relax more while I take over some visual
> responsibilities such the sorting of mail as mentioned before.
> Kindly,
> Vaughn
> On 4/6/18, M. Taylor <mk...@ucla.edu> wrote:
>> Hello Everyone,
>> I am posting the following article because it references an iOS app.
>> Mark
>> A review of Aira. What it is, how it works, and the ways it has changed my
>> life
>> by Jonathan Mosen, Posted on 03/04/2018
>> Introduction
>> Recently, I was pleased to attend the CSUN assistive technology conference.
>> I've had the privilege of going to 10 of these before, but it has been a
>> few
>> years since I was there last.
>> When you're involved with an industry, you tend to watch developments so
>> closely that changes usually seem incremental. But occasionally, something
>> new comes along that is so game changing, it stops you in your tracks. For
>> me, San Diego-based Aira is one such technology. I am late to this party.
>> Aira has been rolling out for some time in the United States. And indeed,
>> we
>> covered Aira in an edition of The Blind Side Podcast last year. But since
>> mentioning my Aira experience to people via outlet such as my Internet
>> radio
>> show, The Mosen Explosion, I've learned that not everyone yet fully
>> understands what the service is or how it works. For those not familiar
>> with
>> Aira, or who would like to read someone else's impressions of it, read on.
>> What is Aira
>> According to the company's website,
>> Aira is today's fastest growing assistive community. One tap of a button
>> instantly connects you with a sighted professional agent who delivers
>> visual
>> assistance anytime and anywhere.
>> Here's what that means in practice. At present, Aira is a smart phone app,
>> available for iOS and Android. Since Aira is a service for blind people,
>> it's no surprise that the app is exemplary in terms of its accessibility.
>> And in iOS, it even sports Siri integration.
>> Using the app, you can connect via video, much like a FaceTime call, with
>> agents who can provide you with visual information. Audio quality is
>> excellent, far clearer than a standard cell phone connection. Essentially,
>> an Aira agent can tell you anything at all that a pair of functioning eyes
>> can see, plus perform a range of tasks pertaining to that information.
>> You can acquire the visual information using your smart phone's camera, or,
>> when you become a subscriber to the Aira service (Aira calls its customers
>> "explorers") you receive a pair of smart glasses. These are included as
>> part
>> of your subscription, so there's no hardware cost upfront.
>> The service is available officially in the United States at present, where
>> Aira has an arrangement with AT&T. Aira explorers receive an AT&T MiFi
>> device, allowing them to use the service on the go without the data
>> consumed
>> by the video connection eating up a customer's own cellular plan. If you
>> have a cellular plan equipped with the personal hotspot feature, you are
>> free to pair your Aira glasses with your phone using that method. For those
>> with large data plans, this may be attractive because there is one less
>> device to keep track of, carry, and charge. The downside, other than the
>> data consumption, is that a video connection to Aira for a long time may
>> cause significant battery drain on your smart phone.
>> When you're at home, work, or anywhere that Wi-Fi is available that doesn't
>> require web-based authentication, you can pair your Aira glasses to that
>> network. As far as I have been able to ascertain, 5 GHZ Wi-Fi isn't
>> supported at present.
>> Because of the need for high quality video, the glasses pair via Wi-Fi, and
>> not Bluetooth. The glasses are associated with your Aira account. This is
>> useful if, like in Bonnie's and my house, you're sharing your minutes as a
>> couple. More on that later.
>> The upshot of all of this is that for 18 hours of every day, professional,
>> well-trained sighted assistance is just a few taps or a Siri command away.
>> Describing it like this makes it sound kind of cool. But I want to explain
>> the impact that Aira has had on our lives in the brief time we have had it,
>> to illustrate that, at least for some of us, this technology is more than
>> just pretty cool, it's life-changing.
>> My first Aira experience
>> If you've been reading this blog or listening to The Blind Side Podcast
>> over
>> the years, you will know that in recent times I have come out as having a
>> hearing impairment. I love going to these big conferences because I get to
>> catch up with old friends and make new ones, as well as see the latest and
>> greatest technology. I hate going to these big conferences because often, I
>> find myself in difficult audio environments. It can be very noisy. Hotel
>> lobbies and restaurants are often exceedingly crowded, with high ceilings
>> causing noise to bounce everywhere. The environment is difficult and
>> tiring,
>> but I keep going and doing the best I can, because the alternative is to
>> sit
>> at home and rust away, and I'm certainly not going to do that.
>> One smart thing that Aira has done is to start rolling out a concept called
>> "site access". With appropriate sponsorship, or perhaps at times where
>> there
>> will be many potential customers in one place, Aira can enable free access
>> to a location or even the entire city through their smart city project.
>> There are two benefits to the strategy. First, it's helpful for existing
>> Aira explorers because they can use the service as much as they want
>> without
>> it counting against their monthly plans.
>> Second, anyone, even those not signed up with an Aira monthly plan, can go
>> to the iOS App Store or the Google Play Store, download the app, create a
>> guest account, and use the service for free. As I found out, it's
>> convenient
>> to have access to Aira in such situations, and it offers the opportunity
>> for
>> Aira to convert those guests into full-time explorers. Smart stuff.
>> It was thanks to this program that I gave Aira a shot. Had I been required
>> to go to the booth to give it a go, I probably would have run out of time
>> and wouldn't be writing this post. But it was a cinch to download the app
>> and set up my guest account.
>> I first decided to put Aira through a simple test. Having arrived in San
>> Diego after a long journey, I wasn't taking much notice of the hotel layout
>> when the porter showed me to my room. So, the next morning, I made my first
>> call to Aira, and asked the friendly agent to guide me to the elevator. Not
>> only did I get to the elevator effortlessly, I was also guided right to the
>> button for the elevator.
>> But the call I will never forget is the one I made to ask for assistance
>> getting to the exhibit hall while exhibits were being set up. If you've
>> visited the Grand Hyatt in San Diego, you'll know how cavernous the lobby
>> can sound. When the lobby is full of people, I find it impossible to
>> navigate, because there's just so much sound bouncing everywhere. To be
>> honest, I wasn't expecting much from Aira, but I was keen to see what would
>> happen.
>> This is the moment when I transitioned from the intellectual understanding
>> that "this is quite a good concept", to the emotional connection that made
>> me say "holy guacamole, this thing is changing my life!"
>> I'm not a guide dog handler at the moment, but I have been in the past. One
>> of the advantages of working with a dog over using a cane is that you avoid
>> many obstacles without ever coming into contact with them. The exception is
>> if you are a cane user with good echolocation. I think that even with full
>> hearing, I would have found echolocation difficult in that very noisy
>> lobby,
>> but it's certainly not viable for me now. Therefore, in that type of
>> environment, I often find myself hitting people's legs with my cane, as I
>> try to find a way forward. With the Aira agent talking in my hearing aids
>> which were also delivering environmental sounds, I was getting information
>> about where the crowds were, and when I needed to veer to avoid running
>> into
>> people. I was told when it was necessary to turn to reach my destination
>> and
>> given confirmation that I was indeed heading in the correct direction.
>> Because of my hearing, and the fact that I know navigating these
>> environments can be difficult, I had allowed myself plenty of time to reach
>> the exhibit hall. But I reached it much more quickly than I had
>> anticipated,
>> and with much less stress than usual.
>> When we eventually reached the exhibit hall, which was some considerable
>> distance away, the agent informed me that the door was closed. I expected
>> this, since I was heading to the exhibit hall before it was officially open
>> to the public. The icing on the cake was when she said that she could see a
>> counter to the left of the door with a sign labelled "Exhibit Services".
>> She
>> then informed me that there was a man behind that counter and offered to
>> lead me to him. She did so, and he let me in. Astounded, I thanked the
>> agent, and ended the call.
>> Full disclosure, at this point, it gets a bit embarrassing. No technology
>> has made me cry for joy before. But a stressful experience I have to psych
>> myself up for had just been made effortless and enjoyable. I was utterly
>> overwhelmed. This was all achieved with no more than the free app and the
>> camera on my iPhone X.
>> Piloting Aira outside the US
>> I've no doubt that I would have been wowed by Aira even if I had been blind
>> without a hearing impairment. But, having had a taste of the independence
>> it
>> was giving me, even better than the independence I had when I was a
>> traveller without a hearing impairment, I really wanted to see if there was
>> any way I could take this home to New Zealand. I knew it would be unlikely,
>> because Aira is very clear that they are only available now in the United
>> States and I think parts of Canada. But I genuinely felt that having had a
>> taste of Aira, I would feel a sense of disability if I lost it again.
>> I met with Aira's CEO, Suman Kanuganti, who kindly agreed to let me pilot
>> the service here. Since this is a fairly glowing review of the service, I
>> want to be clear that I am paying the same as everyone else. This is not a
>> paid advertisement. And I'm aware of the limitations of using the service
>> here when it's not officially supported. For example, Aira is currently
>> unavailable between 1 AM and 7 AM Eastern time. At this time of year, that
>> equates to 5 PM to 11 PM New Zealand time. That's a time when we have had a
>> need for the service, but I signed up knowing what I was getting into, so
>> that's an observation rather than a complaint. Even for Aira's existing
>> customer base, I'm sure many hope that this downtime will soon be a thing
>> of
>> the past. I'm one of those totally blind people without light perception
>> who
>> has non-24 sleep/wake disorder. I'm fortunate that because most of my
>> deliverables can be delivered at any time, I just let my circadian rhythm
>> do
>> its thing. That means I'm sometimes very productive at 2, 3 or 4 AM. I'm
>> sure there are many Aira users in the United States in a similar position,
>> who'd value having access to Aira at that time.
>> I'll also be providing feedback on any technical or cultural issues
>> relating
>> to the use of the service here, should they arise. The most obvious
>> cultural
>> issue is that many of our place names are in the Maori language, the
>> indigenous language of New Zealand. Understandably, Aira agents don't have
>> experience pronouncing them correctly, but that's no different from
>> listening to the same place names spoken by most text-to-speech engines.
>> When mobile, Bonnie and I are using Aira with our mobile data plans. We
>> share a cellular plan that has 25 GB of mobile data per month, and our LTE
>> networks are very robust here, particularly in urban environments.
>> Signing up as an explorer
>> Typically, when you sign up as an explorer, you can start using the service
>> right away with your smart phone, and the hardware is shipped to you. Since
>> I was at the CSUN conference, I was able to sign up online, and collect my
>> hardware from the Aira booth.
>> The ability to use the service as a guest is fairly new, and one of the
>> problems I had was that I couldn't sign up with the email address I had
>> associated with my guest account, because the system flagged it as already
>> in use. It would be nice to have a feature within the app that allowed you
>> to upgrade to a paid account while signed in as a guest. Hopefully that
>> will
>> come in time. The only way around it for now is either to sign up with a
>> different email address or complete the process over the phone.
>> When you make your first call as a fully-fledged explorer, an Aira agent
>> assists you to create your profile. It's here that you really start to
>> appreciate how carefully the services been devised. Suman Kanuganti and his
>> team have worked closely with Blind people, sought their advice, and taken
>> it to heart. It would have been easy for a service like this to have become
>> patronising. Instead, the culture feels like it is truly a partnership
>> between the explorer and the agent.
>> As part of the induction process, you are advised that Aira will never tell
>> you that it's safe to cross the street, and agents will remain silent while
>> you are crossing. If you are mobile, and the agent detects that you're not
>> travelling with a cane or a dog, they will disconnect the call. They make
>> it
>> clear that they are not a substitute for your blindness skills, or for your
>> mobility tool of choice. And they advise that they keep personal opinions
>> out of all descriptions and interactions.
>> You're asked if there are any additional disabilities that it would be
>> helpful for them to be aware of. I was able to tell them about my hearing
>> impairment.
>> Rather like when using JAWS, you are offered three levels of verbosity. The
>> three levels are explained to you clearly. Your default level is recorded
>> in
>> your profile. You can change the default at any time, or for a particular
>> call. The most verbose option will even describe people's facial
>> expressions
>> as you're walking down the street.
>> You're asked whether you prefer directions to be given as a clock face, or
>> in terms of "left" and "right". In a noisy environment, it's easier for me
>> to differentiate between 9 o'clock and 3 o'clock, than between left and
>> right.
>> Once the process is done, all your preferences are recorded and immediately
>> made available to the agent when you call in.
>> Ride sharing Integration
>> Using the APIs of the ride sharing services Uber and Lyft, Aira can connect
>> to your accounts to both call and monitor your rides. You may ask the agent
>> to initiate the entire process for you, or you could use the app of your
>> ride sharing service of choice to call a vehicle, then get the agent online
>> who can see the car you've been allocated, and help you watch for its
>> arrival.
>> Some people have safety concerns about using ride sharing services, since
>> you might walk up to a car that you think is the one you've called, only to
>> find its some random person. Having an Aira agent assist you to the vehicle
>> will avoid that.
>> It's also a brilliant way to catch drivers who speed away because of your
>> dog. An Aira agent can take pictures remotely using the camera you're
>> connecting with, be it the camera on your smart phone or the one built into
>> the glasses. This gives you photographic evidence of the driver speeding
>> away.
>> Sharing minutes
>> Recently, Aira introduced the ability to share minutes with up to two
>> additional people. The feature is great for blind couples like Bonnie and
>> me. Inviting Bonnie to share my minutes was easily done from the app, and
>> she was signed up in minutes, although there was a technical issue which
>> prevented her from logging in. This was resolved in a few hours after
>> contacting Aira.
>> How we've used Aira
>> There is a wonderful section on the Aira website and in its app, with
>> extensive lists of the way that people are using the service. As the father
>> of two daughters, one use case that both resonated with me and amused me
>> was
>> the explorer who asked an agent to describe their daughter's new boyfriend.
>> But here are just a few of the ways that we've used Aira since we've had
>> it.
>> What does this button do?
>> It was wonderful to be able to ask an agent, trained to explain things
>> clearly, how to operate the air-conditioning in my hotel room in San Diego.
>> I was also curious about a little panel to the right of the
>> air-conditioning
>> unit. After getting me to look at the unit, the agent took a photo, blew it
>> up, and told me that it was a control panel for the windows in my hotel
>> room. I probably wouldn't have bothered investigating it had it not been
>> for
>> Aira.
>> Journalism
>> Bonnie has now embarked on a journalism course. Today's journalists must
>> operate in a multimedia environment. This includes taking their own photos.
>> Thanks to the technology VoiceOver offers, it's possible for a blind person
>> to take good photos. When action is moving fast though, it may not be
>> possible to capture that action quickly enough. And VoiceOver's camera
>> functions are limited to recognising people. Seeing AI will recognise
>> scenes, but only after you've taken the picture. Aira to the rescue.
>> Just a couple of days after Bonnie began sharing my Aira minutes, she
>> needed
>> to cover a popular Wellington street festival. Bonnie tells me she couldn't
>> have done it without Aira. Giving instructions to the agent ahead of time
>> about the kind of material she wanted to capture, the Aira agent was able
>> to
>> take pictures at exactly the right time and give Bonnie advice about how to
>> angle the camera. Her photography lecturer praised the photos.
>> The agent gave vivid, detailed descriptions of the festival and the people
>> participating in it, which made it easy for Bonnie to write a descriptive,
>> colourful newspaper story that wasn't devoid of visual imagery even though
>> she is blind.
>> When Bonnie got the munchies after a hard day's journalism, the agent
>> helped
>> her locate the food truck she wanted from a number that were at the
>> festival, and then read her the menu on the side of the truck.
>> Preserving the moment
>> Since Aira can take pictures using the glasses or camera remotely, we
>> recently used it at a birthday party we attended to get the perfect picture
>> for our own records, and for posting to social media.
>> Compiling reports
>> When you travel and collect receipts, you end up with little bits of paper,
>> business cards from cab drivers with receipt information scrawled on the
>> back, and big pieces of paper.
>> I've become adept over the years at performing optical character
>> recognition
>> on all of it for the compilation of expense reports, but it's
>> time-consuming. I took the stress out of the situation and handed it to
>> Aira. My agent advised using the camera on the iPhone X for this task
>> rather
>> than the glasses. She gave instructions regarding the positioning of the
>> camera, took pictures of all the documents, and I had no doubt that each
>> receipt was fully in the picture.
>> She put them all in a single document which she then emailed to me. This
>> process took probably a third to a quarter of the time it would have
>> usually
>> taken me.
>> Transcription
>> As someone who's been totally blind since birth, I've enjoyed becoming more
>> familiar with effective use of the camera and understanding the
>> relationship
>> between distance and getting the subject of a photograph fully in the
>> picture. When in hotels, I sometimes find getting a good-quality capture of
>> hotel compendia and in-room dining menus a challenge. The print may have
>> become faded over time, or there's a wide variation of print types. It can
>> also take time to work out whether there is print on both sides of the page
>> or not, and sometimes that can vary even within the same document.
>> At a recent hotel stay, Aira took all the stress out of rendering the
>> in-room dining menu accessible to Bonnie and me. The agent very quickly
>> snapped pictures of all the pages and could see at a glance when the pages
>> were single or double-sided. Then, the agent transcribed the text into a
>> fully accessible Word document. I was given the choice as to whether I
>> wanted a full transcription, which of course took a little longer, or just
>> a
>> summary of the items on the menu and their prices.
>> The mysteries of the minibar
>> Many hotel minibars now have sophisticated sensors that charge you for an
>> item when you lift it out of the fridge. Rather than hunt around for a
>> barcode on each bottle, can, and food item, an Aira agent was able to
>> recite
>> the cans in the fridge in left-to-right order.
>> Real-time audio description
>> Bonnie and I recently took a gondola ride in one of the most picturesque
>> parts of New Zealand. One of our party was sighted, nevertheless, I decided
>> to call Aira, to ask an agent if she could give me real-time audio
>> description as we rode the gondola, then as we stood on the viewing
>> platform. It was a moving experience to get such detailed descriptions of
>> the water, the tree line and the city below. Our sighted companion was
>> impressed, saying that Aira had told us things she wouldn't have thought
>> about describing.
>> Does Aira harm the accessibility cause?
>> When I've discussed Aira with some blind people, a few have expressed the
>> concern that the service may discourage those of us who have it from
>> continuing to advocate for a truly accessible world. They fear that as
>> providers of information and services become aware of Aira, they may feel
>> under less of an obligation to do the right thing when it comes to
>> accessibility.
>> For example, if you read this blog regularly, you will know I've been
>> campaigning about the code to complete the New Zealand census not being
>> accessible. If I had been an Aira explorer at the time, an Aira agent would
>> have read the access code to me, and the process would have taken about a
>> minute maximum. Would I have begun my campaign for the codes to be
>> inherently accessible if Aira had been in our home to do that for me? I
>> would like to think so.
>> A similar concern was expressed when JAWS introduced the ability to perform
>> OCR on inaccessible PDF files.
>> I believe Aira is a pragmatic solution that delivers access to us today.
>> That in no way means that those of us with the skills and inclination to
>> advocate for a more accessible world shouldn't continue to do so. If we've
>> been able to use Aira to work around the problem, it's just that, a
>> work-around. Most of the world's written information today is born
>> accessible. Someone must take a deliberate step to convert it into
>> something
>> inaccessible, and we must always object to that occurring. So, we must
>> still
>> advocate for all aspects of life to be as accessible as possible.
>> In this highly visual world, there'll always be plenty of tasks for Aira to
>> perform, even as accessibility improves.
>> Does Aira erode blindness skills?
>> The arrival of the pocket calculator, the cell phone with a built-in
>> contact
>> directory, and many other technologies have been the cause of people
>> expressing concern about the "dumbing down" of the human race. A few people
>> I've spoken with about Aira have wondered if it will cause an erosion of
>> blindness skills among its users. I don't believe so. I contend the impact
>> will be positive.
>> For me personally, other circumstances, specifically my hearing impairment,
>> have made travel time-consuming and exhausting. Freedom of movement should
>> not be the privilege of the blind elite who happen to find travel intuitive
>> and easy. Freedom of movement is, in my view, a fundamental human right.
>> With the ability to travel under less stress, I believe my travel skills,
>> which may have eroded a little over the years as I've begun avoiding tricky
>> situations, will in fact improve due to increased use.
>> Remember, Aira does not replace your cane or dog. You must still know how
>> to
>> use your cane in a way that helps you locate obstacles and provides you
>> with
>> clues about your environment.
>> What it costs, and is it value for money?
>> Assuming you have a smartphone, there is no other hardware you must
>> purchase
>> to use Aira. It's all included as part of the package.
>> The current pricing structure looks like this:
>> .    Basic Plan. 100 regular minutes a month for $89.
>> .    Plus Plan. 200 regular minutes a month for $129.
>> .    Pro Plan. 400 regular minutes a month for $199.
>> .    Premium Plan. Unlimited regular minutes a month for $329.
>> I believe it is possible to get further discounts on the Pro plan if you
>> pay
>> a year, or even several years, in advance.
>> If you run out of minutes, you can purchase additional ones.
>> You can cancel or upgrade your plan at any time.
>> Whenever a company provides a service directly to the blind community,
>> there
>> are always people who will express concern about cost. Unfortunately, the
>> economic reality is that the cost of research and development, as well as
>> the overheads involved in running a business, must be spread across a
>> smaller group of people when providing a service to our community. This
>> equation is made more difficult because so many people in our community are
>> unemployed and living hand to mouth. Sure, for some people, Aira will be
>> worth sacrificing a few daily cups of premium coffee for, but it's not that
>> easy for everyone.
>> Some people question whether the service is worth the cost given that there
>> is a free service, Be My Eyes, which connects you with sighted volunteers.
>> Be My Eyes is a useful service, and I don't seek to denigrate it at all. I
>> am signed up with it, have supported it since before it went live, and I
>> use
>> it from time to time. But Be My Eyes relies on volunteers. Some people are
>> so keen to assist a blind person that they answer a call when they may have
>> been better letting it go. Others simply don't explain things clearly
>> enough. And yes, there are some who are outstanding. But I equate using Be
>> My Eyes with asking a stranger for directions in the street. Sometimes you
>> will get somebody who couldn't be more helpful. At other times you will get
>> somebody who doesn't know their right from their left, or just isn't
>> observant about the world around them.
>> With Aira, the agents have been trained extensively, plus they have tools
>> that help pinpoint your location and provide other data. There's also a
>> guarantee of privacy with Aira.
>> I know of people who've used Aira to help them sign employment contracts,
>> complete tax returns and more.
>> So, in my view, there is no question that Aira will revolutionise the lives
>> of many blind people if they can afford to access it. This raises important
>> public policy questions. Many agencies serving blind people will provide
>> funding for sighted assistance to be available on-location at specific
>> times. Perhaps such agencies fund several hours of assistance each week in
>> the workplace. Other agencies may fund a human reader to visit a blind
>> person's home. Aira gives you access to sighted assistance on demand, at
>> your convenience, not at the convenience of the sighted person. This is
>> important because some tasks may only take a couple of minutes, but they
>> can
>> be show stoppers on the job until we can get that assistance. In a work
>> environment, sighted assistance on-demand through Aira has the potential to
>> improve a blind person's productivity.
>> There's also the social investment argument. If a much wider range of blind
>> people can feel comfortable about travelling in unfamiliar areas,
>> government
>> investment in Aira could pay dividends by improving employability.
>> Looking to the future
>> Most blind people become blind later in life. And most of those people
>> don't
>> have smart phones. This group is often forgotten, so it's encouraging to
>> see
>> that Aira has been giving them considerable thought. The coming generation
>> of seniors will be more assertive and tech savvy. They will have had
>> experience of technology in the workplace, and they are willing to spend
>> money to ameliorate the consequences of their age-related disability.
>> However, they may decide that coming to terms with the blindness specific
>> touchscreen paradigm is just too difficult. Certainly, that's the case now.
>> Yet I think many seniors would love to have access to Aira. If they can
>> have
>> an agent assist them to read the newspaper in the morning, describe
>> pictures
>> of the grandchildren or go through their mail, that's something many would
>> gladly pay for.
>> The market for Aira's services is going to increase significantly with the
>> introduction of their new Horizon technology. Currently, to use Aira, you
>> need at least two things - a smart phone, and the glasses, both of which
>> need to be charged. If you want to use it without eating into your data
>> plan, you'll need to carry the AT&T MiFi device around with you. That also
>> needs to be charged separately. That's three things in total that need to
>> be
>> charged.
>> Within the next few months, Aira is promising to simplify their offering
>> significantly. They've taken a Samsung Android device, which includes a
>> physical home button, and developed their own firmware for it. This device
>> is not designed to be used as a cell phone. Rather than requiring a MiFi,
>> the data SIM will be in this device. The new Horizon glasses, which are
>> much
>> more fashionable and elegant looking, are tethered to this device with an
>> unobtrusive-looking cable. The field of view is much improved, as is the
>> video quality. That means less need to keep turning one's head at the
>> instruction of the Aira agent. With the glasses getting their power from
>> the
>> Horizon device, battery life is massively improved.
>> This all means that someone who doesn't have a smart phone will fire up the
>> Horizon device, double tap the button, and talk to an agent. Smart phone
>> users will retain the option to control their Aira experience via the app
>> they're used to.
>> This configuration also reduces latency and any potential for video
>> degradation. There will no longer be a wireless hop that the video needs to
>> take between the glasses and the device transmitting the video to an Aira
>> agent.
>> Clearly, considerable thought and capital investment has gone into the next
>> generation of the service. This demonstrates that Aira is continuing to
>> innovate and thinking about broadening its base.
>> Over time, artificial intelligence will become smarter, and will be able to
>> do more of the things that human agents are doing for Aira explorers now.
>> It's therefore sensible forward planning that Aira has begun work on their
>> own artificial intelligence engine they are calling Chloe. Initially, Chloe
>> will offer optical character recognition, and perform functions relating to
>> the operation and configuration of the Horizon device. I imagine that over
>> time, Chloe will become more capable. That will increase efficiency for the
>> explorer and reduce overheads for the company.
>> Concluding thoughts
>> Aira's evolution is an exemplary case study of how to tap into a niche
>> market and create a new, innovative product. Of course, it's not perfect,
>> but what is? Sometimes, you can lose cellular coverage when you really need
>> it, causing the connection with the agent to drop. There's nothing Aira can
>> do about that other than ensuring they're using hardware that maximises the
>> cellular signal, and to have a robust protocol in place for seeking to
>> re-establish the connection. But all in all, the service is fantastic.
>> There've been a few phases of Aira adoption for me. The first was hearing
>> about it and understanding intellectually that it was a clever idea. The
>> second was the strong, powerful, emotional realisation that this could
>> really change my life. The third is the dawning realisation that I'm not
>> imposing on anybody anymore. Many of us can relate to having sighted family
>> members or friends who we turn to when we need a pair of working eyes, and
>> we hope we are not overdoing it. When I first started using Aira, I had a
>> twinge of reluctance about making calls, wondering if someone might need
>> the
>> help of the agent more than me. Then, one day, it really dawned on me. The
>> people at Aira want me to make the call. After all, if I use up all my
>> minutes, I might buy more. So, when I make a call to Aira, I'm not
>> inconveniencing anybody, I'm strengthening their bottom line. How wonderful
>> it is to call on sighted help without feeling like I might be a burden.
>> If you'd like to try Aira
>> Due to the exchange rate between the United States and New Zealand,
>> unfortunately Aira is a little more expensive here than it is in the United
>> States. Bonnie and I are presently using the Plus plan, at $129 USD a
>> month,
>> which equates to $179 NZD. When the novelty wears off a little, it will be
>> interesting to see if we need the 200 minutes.
>> So, if you would like to give Aira a try, I'd appreciate it if you'd sign
>> up
>> using our referral link. The referral program means that the person being
>> referred, and the person who did the referring, each gets a free month.
>> Pretty good marketing. To take Aira for a spin, activate my referral link.
>> I
>> hope it makes as much of a difference to you as it has to Bonnie and me.
>> Are you an Aira explorer? What do you think of the service, and what are
>> some of the ways you're using it? Leave your thoughts in the comments.
>> Original Article at:
>> http://mosen.org/aira/
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> -- 
> Vaughn Brown
> Board member of the Clark County National Federation of the Blind
> Advocate for American Foundation for the Blind
> 360-904-8432
> -- 
> The following information is important for all members of the Mac Visionaries 
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