Tag: Technology



23 Sep 17

By Randy Pierce

One of the recent benefits I found through the work of Future In Sight came with an outstanding technology seminar. I have the training and skills to live a meaningful and successful life for certain and still believe that we put an ever brighter Future In Sight when we keep our mind open to the many developments which can help us along the path. When I was invited along with more than 40 other sight impaired clients to attend an AIRA technology demonstration, I had only heard rudimentarily about this new product and service. The more I learned, the more impressed I became and so I was eager to join many in taking the plunge to sign up and experience the possibilities.

Woman using AIRA, wearing Goggles with a caption on the screen greeting herWhat is AIRA?

You can certainly visit their website for detailed information including their own excellent video demonstration of all aspects of the project. As I’ve just recently begun working with my own unit, I’ll share my early understanding and experience as well as commit to checking back with you in a few months to report on the progress.

It begins with a pair of smart glasses containing a 4k video camera with high resolution photo ability as well as a wifi hotspot generator to provide data transmission for the unit. These are paired with my smart phone through the AIRA application so that at a time of need I connect to the service as what they call an “explorer” (if they only knew!) to one of their O&M (orientation and mobility) trained agents at a remote location. Their agent has a computer dashboard with access to the camera view, GPS information, profile information I’ve shared on best practices and information for me.

Typically I’m wearing an “ears-free” bone conductive bluetooth headphone which allows me to hear all the ambient sound around me and communicate with my phone and the agent smoothly. They introduce themselves and inquire how they can help. It may be that I’ve encountered a handout I simply need scanned and emailed to me, or I may have been stopped on the sidewalk by a construction pit where my travel route normally would have been. Whatever the challenge I’m facing, their ability to act as my eyes allows us to interact enough to resolve many interesting challenges seamlessly.

Want to pick out raised hands for the Q&A at a school presentation? No problem! Want to find that lost ball I tossed in the bush to Autumn’s frustration? Want to read the information on the treadmill after my run? How about navigate my hotel room while traveling on my own and learning the layout? There’s so much it can do for me and I’ve only just started to scratch the surface.

A few key points I want to highlight about this excellent service. First, it is a business and so there is a cost for it monthly and while they and I hope to have that become more and more efficiently managed, the initial explorations are promising. I especially want to applaud the price they have arranged for veterans. They act as our eyes and not as our brains so we are responsible for judgments and safety — they merely provide us with additional information. They won’t be replacing Autumn or my cane, but finding ways to act in conjunction to make us more efficient.

So if you see me wearing some new sun glasses and perhaps talking to myself, I’ve probably not added new challenges to my world but rather new solutions, and I encourage you to come talk to me about it. I’m excited to learn just how much more of the world I can explore with this new technology, which is why it joins me for the expedition to Peru!

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27 Apr 13

By Randy Pierce

Using Voice Over on my Apple (IOS) device has been one of the many liberating solutions to many blind challenges. Recently an application called “TapTapSee” was made available for free! It’s a one-button push camera which then uses servers on the internet to process the picture and report back a brief description of the image. While not flawless, the power of this product is incredible as it quickly identified Quinn as “A yellow labrador retriever lying on a blue rug.”

I’ve loved the power of this simple-to-use application which provides me a considerable amount of information I might not otherwise gather. I’ve tested it in many situations to get a description of a hotel room, a table setting, my own clothes, find my favorite mug and even learn what various friends are wearing. The most detailed example it ever provided was in accurately describing a friend who was wearing “man in a cookie monster T-shirt with a plaid coat and pajamas.”

The thought of that level of description for my friend is powerful but it also leads to a concern. While I certainly appreciate the power to basically turn on a snapshot of sight for a moment, when is this process an invasion of privacy and how far will this technology develop?

An ideal potential development might be the ability to shoot continuous video and have description which might even use facial recognition to identify which of my friends are nearby. But the challenge is that all of these images are being loaded onto the web and processed, which means there is an even greater privacy impact. Is the benefit of this to a blind person worth the impact on all those in “sight” of the camera?

These questions are going to be raised and I think it’s worthwhile to discuss them now. So what are your thoughts?

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