Remote Sighted Assistant: Inclusive Audio-Based Navigation Systems

Be My Eyes and Aira Remote Sighted Assistant

Acts of kindness with global impact. Was the genesis behind the launch of “Be My Eyes” in 2015, The app connects people who are blind or visually impaired with one of the over two million sighted volunteers worldwide via the user’s smartphone and camera.  The user can connect with a volunteer to receive assistance ranging from matching sock colour to a description of their surroundings. The global make up of the volunteer pool offers connections in over one hundred languages.

In 2018, Be My Eyes, partnered with Microsoft Accessibility Group to offer expert connections for app users requiring technology support. This program is expanding with additional technology companies.

This tech for good model has also had significant financial investment in 2019 / 2020. The quality of this service continues to expand and develop.

To get started with Be My Eyes or to find out more information click on the following link: https://www.bemyeyes.com/get-started

Aira also a remote sighted assistant service is viewed by many as the gold standard in this market segment. Rather than enlisting sighted volunteers. Aira, hires and trains agents to assist explorers (app user) in tasks ranging from reviewing written correspondence to navigating unfamiliar or complex environments. The app also utilizes the user’s smartphone sensors enabling the agent to more accurately and confidently provide wayfinding information to the app user.

The main wayfinding limitation with Aira and any remote sighted app. Is that the agents navigate interior spaces by reading signs using the smartphone or smart glass’s camera. A process that can be challenging for both user and agent. Presumably, as the technology advances and more venues provide inclusive audio-based navigation systems. Either the live agent or developing artificial intelligence will utilize digital mapping pinpointing the user’s location. Enabling greater indoor and outdoor wayfinding with a high degree of accuracy and reliability.

Currently, exterior GPS under perfect conditions offers accuracy within five metres but common signal interference within cities can reduce accuracy to only fifty metres or no signal at all. Interior systems that rely on radio frequencies, such as Wi-Fi, beacons and G5, also have limitations to accuracy due to interference variables. Good news is that recent innovations utilizing body movement is improving accuracy and consistency in digitally mapping users in interior and exterior spaces.

That being said, Using Aira to navigate situations such as queuing up for check in, security or baggage pick up; an Aira agent’s assistance at an airport can be very helpful. In addition, if your travelling companion is over editing their descriptions of your surroundings or seem exasperated with your questions. Aira’s agents are paid, trained and delighted to provide descriptions or answer your questions. A very useful feature and marital aid.

Aira is a fee-based service and even with recent promotions can be financially out of reach. Aira and partners to address this barrier of access have developed Aira Free Zones. Where persons attending a venue, can download the app to their smartphone and access the service free of charge within a geofenced area.

In Canada and Internationally, Aira Free Zones are made available free of charge at a number of airports including YVR Vancouver and YYZ Pearson Toronto; internationally, LHR London Heathrow and a number of US Airports.

Download the Aira App directly on your mobile phone from Google Play or the Apple App Store. After downloading the app, you can register as a user with your phone and email address, and you will be asked to agree to Aira’s Terms of Service. Aira will then send you a four-digit code to verify your mobile number. Upon verification you are ready to connect with an Aira agent.

You do not need to subscribe to an Aira plan to access promotions or free zones.

Both, Be My Eyes and Aira, do not replace the need for blind or visually impaired users to have good orientation and mobility training. The services are an accessibility tool and have limitations.

For more information on how remote sighted assistance can support a venues accessibility and inclusion objectives. Contact us at Gateway Navigation via email partners@gnc3.com

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