GTT National Conference Call.
Sponsored by the Canadian Council of the Blind
March 14, 2018.
Aira Smart Glasses; Our name is derived from two interesting sources: the emerging field of Artificial Intelligence (AI), and the ancient Egyptian mythological being and symbol known as the Eye of Ra (RA). Steeped in the mysteries of Egyptian mythology, the Eye of Ra has symbolized protection, healing and the power to perceive and interpret both the seen and unseen in the universe.
Check it out at:
Jason Fayre, Debbie Gillespie and Victor Marques are using AIRA glasses and joined the GTT Nat Con Call to tell us about their experience so far.
- AIRA has been around for about a year publicly and is based out of California. They connect users with live agents that can describe the environment, read printed info, and help guide the user through many life situations. Anything you might need eyes for, sort of like having a sighted person in your pocket.
- It is similar to BeMyEyes, however the major difference is that Aira is not free.
- BeMyEyes volunteers are not trained in sighted guide technique, nor are they always aware of issues related to blindness and vision loss, whereas all Aira agents are employed and well trained by the company.
- Aira Agents sign agreements of confidentiality, and the user also signs an agreement regarding amount of information wanted and things they won’t be permitted to request, etc.
- The presenters agreed they would not have a BeMyEyes agent read credit card information to them, but they may have an Aira agent read such info.
Cost of service is not cheap. It needs to be more affordable to more people.
Most basic plan 89 dollars a month USD provides 100 minutes.
$199 USD Premium Plan
$329 USD unlimited plan
No specific Canadian pricing yet.
Victor Marques Said following the call:
A reminder, as I mentioned, that if you do decide to try AIRA, your first three months should be on a double minute promotion. Do not sign up straight away for the $329 unlimited plan because the $199 Premium plan comes with unlimited minutes for the first three months anyway. You can change plans as you wish at any time once you figure out what your usage will be.
Also, if a current explorer refers you, you’d get your second month of whichever plan you choose for free. Feel free to contact any of us who presented tonight for further information so that we can arrange that for you.
How it works:
- The user has an app on their smart phone and a pair of glasses with a camera mounted on the right-hand side.
- The package includes a Mi-Fi connection device that connects the iPhone and the glasses with the Agent over a high priority high speed cellular connection.
- The data the glasses use is not part of the user’s cell phone plan.
- It does use a significant amount of data.
- Data uses is included in your monthly subscription.
- The data for the voice portion of the call goes through your cell phone but video does not.
- Currently all agents are in the USA, so if you have no long distance cell plan to call the USA it could be more expensive to use Aira.
- If users do not want to use the glasses, they can connect through the phone’s camera, however the call will use the cell phone’s data for the video portion, as well as the cell phone’s long distance charges.
- You can minute share. Can have up to three users using 1 account.
- More than one person can be on a call at the same time with agents, however only 1 pair of glasses is issued per subscription.
- You can connect through your home Wi-Fi or use your phone as a hot spot, and you don’t have to have a North American plan to connect to Aira.
- AIRA support is a regular long distance phone call to the USA, so if you don’t have a long distance plan on your cell phone it might be wise to Use your land line to call AIRA support.
- Minutes are determined by the amount of time you use with an agent.
What is the advantage of wearing the glasses vs using the smart phone camera:
- The glasses are good for navigation hands free.
- Data is optimized for video streaming. Gets priority if wearing the glasses.
- It is supposed to have better connection.
- Aira is just about to release a new pair of glasses, which it is estimated will have a wider field of vision and higher resolution.
- The camera on the phone is better for fine detail because it has higher resolution. For reading small print the phone camera might be better.
- An agent may ask you to call back using your phone for fine detail.
- They can take a photo for you in your app and it stays in the app that both the user and the agent can utilize in the future, like photos of people the user will want to recognize in group settings, etc. They can e-mail you photos and other information captured during a session.
- Aira has apps for iPhone and android.
- AIRA is not officially launched in Canada, however they are accepting new users.
- The presenters weren’t sure when the official Canadian launch is slated to be announced.
- They are currently shipping the Mi-Fi unit AT and T that connects with the Rogers network. It is assumed that Aira won’t work outside of Rogers’s cell coverage areas
- The presenters recommended that people use AfterShokz or other bone conducting head phones with the glasses.
- AIRA is your eyes not your brain, you need to be able to cross streets. It is imperative that users have good mobility. Aira can enhance but not replace those good skills to help users do what they want to do.
- When working with an Aira agent they are trained not to talk to users while crossing streets.
When to use it:
- Jason wanted to go to a store he had never been to before. He looked it up and got close to it by bus, and as there was no one around to offer guidance he contacted an agent and the agent guided him right to the door of the location. From the street, the store entrance was around the back of the building and through a large parking lot.
- In addition to what the agent sees through the glasses, they have access to GPS so they can look around your location on a map.
- Aira really helps in unfamiliar Cities, parts of your own City and/or construction areas.
- You can give them an address and they will help guide you to it from where you are.
- You can register your Uber and Lyft accounts and the agent can call them for you, and they will stay on the line to help you identify the car when it pulls up and that it is the correct one. They will also guide you to the door if the driver isn’t helpful in that regard.
- The agents can read hand written charts and other paperwork in a work setting, or anywhere else.
- They have been used by Victor’s wife for describing diagrams and visual things for University courses.
- They are often used in busy airports for transferring to connecting gates, or for getting through the airport to begin with.
- Victor told stories of times when their meet and assist did not show up, so they used Aira to quickly get to the next gate.
- Aira is good for independent shopping to help find things.
- Aira is good to use when travelling to a place you’ve never been, and might not ever go back to. Debbie indicated she is often required to go places once, so rather than learning the travel intricacies of accessing such locations she will use an Aira agent.
- Some folks use Aira agents to read computer screens when screen readers fail to complete a task or action.
- The presenters have used Aira to order an Uber.
- Aira provides a convenience and independence factor.
- After every call you can rate your experience.
- When you sign up you do have to complete a user profile.
- Each profile can have a documents/photo folder associated with it, which is available to the agent and/or the user.
- The presenters indicated that agents will take/save a photo of someone you might wish to find during a conference or seminar, and they will help you find/identify that person when he/she walks in the room.
- The user can correspond with agents by email to share documents, photos etc.
AIRA employment program:
- Subscribers can use Aira for free for job seeking, guidance for visual resume proof-reading/preparation etc. without using minutes from their personal account.
- Part of the over-all desire is to have employers pick up the cost of Aira once you are working.
How quickly do you get an agent, and do they try to link you with the same one:
- They do not connect you to the same agent, but maybe if an agent has a specific expertise they might.
- At this point most calls are connected in about a minute, and sometimes a little more.
- Agents are available 7 AM to 1 AM eastern.
- A rule of thumb is to let the agent know quickly and efficiently what you want to do so that minutes aren’t wasted with long explanations.
- With the soon to be released new glasses Aira may be eliminating the need for Mi-Fi and the phone. Perhaps all will be built into one device instead of three as it currently stands.
- It will be good if they include a push button on the glasses for answering/making the call.
- The presenters indicated that there are too many parts right now, with a smart phone, the Mi-Fi device and the glasses that all need to be connected to each other in order for the system to work.
- Also, the user has to make sure all these items are charged.
- It was emphasized that users should always have a backup plan and independent mobility and orientation skills.
- Debbie leaves the glasses and Mi-Fi on and pared so she can use it quickly.
- The presenters indicated that having an agent guide you through touch screen devices isn’t always great.
- They will identify whether or not it’s too dark, which limits their ability to assist.
- Rural areas may pose issues if the Rogers cell coverage is weak or nonexistent.
- All Aira plans include one set of glasses and the Mi-Fi device, and the user has to have a smart phone and a cellular service plan in place.
- There are areas in Canada that do not have Rogers’s cell phone coverage and this might mean that Aira won’t be available in those areas.
- The glasses are tinted and apparently quite stylish.
- Some people think they are a little heavy to the right side due to the camera being mounted there.
- When signing up each user gets an orientation.
- The presenters were asked if people express problems with their having a camera built into their glasses, and all indicated they’ve never been asked to take the glasses off because of the camera.
- If users plan to minute share all parties must have their own profile, and when signing up users receive an email and are taken to a profile page where they are asked questions like name, address, email, subscribe to Aira news, mobility skill level, how much description information do you want on a scale of 1-5, and the Type of directions, clock face, cardinal, or degrees, how much vision does the user have, is night blindness an issue, is the user a cane or dog guide user?
- Users are also asked about their cause of vision loss, however that question is optional.
- The average length of calls is about 8 minutes for Debbie.
- Jason and Victor agreed that most of their calls are about 5 minutes long.
- Victor when he was on the unlimited plan at the start of his use of Aira had the Kamloops Santa Claus parade described to him.
- If you are running low you can purchase another block of 100 minutes for 50 dollars in a month, and your minutes roll over if unused.
- If someone refers you you get a free month.
- Aira has approached several businesses to sign them up as Aira subscribers, so when you use your Aira equipment there you do not use your personal minutes. In addition to some retail outlets, a few Airports in the USA have signed up. Check the Aira website for a listing of supportive businesses. Other places are some grocery stores, Disney world and some Museums.
- You have to pay your monthly payment in advance by credit card which is kept on file.
- The presenters were asked if wearing a hat effects the camera, and that only happens if the hat covers the camera that is mounted on the right arm of the glasses.
- Some thought it might be good to use when looking for lost things, like keys, dog poop and the TV remote.
- There are some operating buttons on the right side, and it’s a USB cord that is used to charge it.
- One of the buttons tells you your battery status and the glasses do have a tiny speaker built-in.
- When a user signs up it is a month to month contract.
- If you run out of time for the month the agent will not cut you off during a call, and your remaining time can be checked in the app.
- Like all cell phones and GPS devices, you cannot use them underground.
- While connected to an Aira agent, you can put it in privacy mode so agent cannot hear or see you until you are out of privacy mode, like in washrooms and other private conversations and situations.
- The agent sees about 60 degrees with the camera, whereas the human visual field is about 120 degrees. Jason and Victor indicated that the new glasses will have 120 degrees of vision.
- The camera is good for distance, and not as good for close up or small print access.
- Soon it will have features similar to the OrCam glasses, where it will read text and identify things in the immediate environment without the need for an agent or the use of precious minutes.
- At this time Aira will not allow the user to call someone he/she knows through Aira, only trained agents.
- The agent will tell you what object is in your path, or that the traffic light is green but he/she will not tell you it is safe to cross the street.
- Some suggested that around the house one could use BeMyEyes unless hands-free is needed, then it might be better to call an agent through Aira.
- An Aira agent can help you sign documents.
- Some of the Aira agents have remote control app for computer and can remote in and click on something graphical on your computer that the screen reader can’t identify.
GTT National Conference Call Overview
- GTT National Conference Call is a monthly discussion group of the Canadian Council of the Blind (CCB).
- GTT National Conference Calls promote a self-help learning experience by holding monthly meetings to present and discuss new and emerging assistive technology.
- Each meeting consists of a feature technology topic, along with questions and answers about assistive technology.
- Participants are encouraged to attend each meeting even if they are not interested in the feature topic because questions on any technology are welcome. The more participants the better able we will be equipped with the talent and experience to help each other.
- There are GTT groups across Canada as well as an email distribution list where assistive technology questions are provided by participants. You may also subscribe to the National GTT blog to get email notices of teleconferences and notes from other GTT chapters. Visit:
There is a form at the bottom of that web page to enter your email.
National GTT Email Support List
CCB sponsors a GTT email support list to provide help and support with technology for blind and low vision Canadians. To subscribe to the email list, send an empty email to:
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