The Wearables Giving Computer Vision to the Blind

When he was in school, Michael Hingson created a Braille computer terminal so he could study like all the other students. Fresh out of college, he worked on the development of the Kurzweil Reading Machine for the Blind, the first commercial text-to-speech machine for the visually impaired. He’s used white canes and guide dogs, voice controls on his smartphone and virtual assistants like Alexa, all in the name of doing things on his own despite being blind since birth. But something as simple as reading a comic book, or finding the split pea soup among all the cans in the pantry? Until recently, that just seemed impossible.So when Hingson talks about the time he assembled a piece of furniture with Ikea-style pictorial directions, it’s as if he’s scaled a mountain. He did it wearing Aira, a camera-enabled set of glasses that beams his field of view to someone who can see, as if to momentarily borrow their eyesight. “I absolutely could not have done that on my own, period, any other way,” Hingson says.Aira launched six months ago and counts about 400 blind or vision-impaired subscribers. They use the service mostly for help with ordinary tasks—reading a handwritten note, navigating…


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