New technology to aid those with blindness or low-vision on Marathon weekend
Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities, and the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics today announced a partnership with remote assistive technology company Aira to provide free access to its smartphone app during One Boston Day and the Boston Marathon for people who are blind or have low vision (BLV). Using the camera on Aira's smartglasses or any smartphone, a person who is blind or low vision can download the Aira app and use it to connect to a remote set of human eyes. Known as Aira agents, trained professionals with deep experience communicating with the BLV community use Aira smartglasses or a personal smartphone to serve as visual interpreters for the blind as the agents describe, in real-time, their users' environments.
Used in Boston at places like Perkins School for the Blind and by the staff at Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI), Aira's app will be available for free use during the Boston Marathon weekend, throughout the entire City of Boston. Aira Explorer and current blind Ironman world-record holder Erich Manser will be running using Aira this year along with his sighted guide, as part of MABVI's Team with a Vision.
"With this technology, residents and visitors can use visual interpreters as they perform an act of kindness during One Boston Day, or use the service to experience the Boston Marathon in a new way," said Mayor Walsh. "The Boston Marathon and One Boston Day represent a time Boston comes together as one, and I look forward to many people benefitting from this service as we welcome thousands to be part of the Marathon and One Boston Day."
"This initiative demonstrates Mayor Walsh's ongoing commitment to ensure that the city of Boston is not only accessible, but is also fully inclusive of people with disabilities," said Commissioner Kristen McCosh. "This inclusive service is a great way to celebrate One Boston Day, welcoming people of all abilities to experience everything the city has to offer."
This experiment is part of a larger body of work dedicated to understanding the role of novel technologies in making Boston a more welcoming and accessible place for people of all abilities.
"Boston has long been a pioneer in technology and accessibility services. As millions of people from across the country and the globe come together for the 2018 Marathon, we can't think of a better time to kick off this program, and turn Boston into an Aira Smart City," said Aira CEO Suman Kanuganti. "We are so proud to be working with the city to bring this partnership to life, and see Boston become an even more accessible, open place for all."
Users interested in free access to Aira during One Boston Day and the Boston Marathon should visit: https://go.aira.io/bostonmarathon. Free Aira Guest Access will be available in Boston, and along the entire Marathon course from Monday, April 9th to Tuesday, April 17th.
Aira is AI + AR for the blind. The company is on a mission to create smart cities accessible for all. They use wearables with AI-powered human agents to further empower more than 300 million individuals who are blind and low vision globally. For more information, please visit https://aira.io/ or follow @airaio on social.
About the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics
The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics is the City's R&D team. Their goal is to pilot experiments that increase the quality of life for all of Boston's residents and visitors.
About the Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities
The Mayor's Commission for Persons with Disabilities mission is to facilitate full and equal participation in all aspects of life by persons with disabilities in Boston.