If you watched the major news outlets’ coverage of CES 2017, you might have gotten the impression that it was largely a virtual reality (VR) show. Clearly, this is a sexy market segment that is a real crowd-pleaser, but the fact is that augmented reality (AR) is already well-established in enterprise and vertical applications. In spite of the media’s mistaken conclusion that Google Glass is dead, AR glasses are solving real problems every day and they are likely to be a much larger market than VR.
One perfect example of how AR can make new Health Tech applications possible is a new service called Aria. People who are blind or have seriously impaired vision can function well in many settings, especially when they are familiar with their surroundings. However, there are times when it would be convenient — or even safer — if they could have a sighted companion with them to assist. For example, a companion could help with navigating public transportation, providing directions to an unfamiliar location, reading a restaurant menu, or even finding the right can of soup in a cupboard.
Aria provides just such a companion, on an as-needed basis whether it is for a minute or an hour. The client wears AR glasses (the service supports different brands and models) and can request help from an “agent” with a tap of a button. The agent knows the client’s location, thanks to GPS, and can see what the client sees thanks to the AR glasses. The agent works with a dashboard that includes a map showing the client’s location and a live feed from the glasses’ camera. The agent is able to spot and describe obstacles in real time, can read signs, or provide other “on-the-scene” assistance. Agents can be professionals working with Aira, or you can arrange to have friends or family members train as agents to provide you with support.
The program is rolling out now, with monthly subscription rates ranging from $39 to $199 a month, depending on the number of minutes of assistance desired and whether AR glasses are included. This service can give people with visual impairment a lot more confidence and independence, and has the potential to transform lives.