Augmented reality (AR) is one of the more successful technologies applied to health and medical applications. Virtual reality in its current state is costly, location limited, plus it makes people dependent and occasionally nauseous. AR is an additive technology, with readily apparent benefits. We’ve written about AR glasses that help find veins, improve patient visits, and provide instructions to telehealth patients. AR also has a role in adaptive technology, for example with Ocutrix Medical’s Oculenz glasses that manipulate the wearer’s perception of reality to aid visually impaired people.

The City of Chula Vista, located halfway between San Diego and Tijuana recently launched a one-year pilot to help blind and low-vision people learn about and navigate the city’s busy Third Avenue Village area. Visually impaired users with a smartphone can connect with Aira, a San Diego-based augmented reality service. Aira’s trained remote agents help users interact and understand their surroundings using real-time video and audio and maps. Aira’s visual information displays in the smartphone app or on optional Horizon Smart Glasses.

During the one-year pilot, Aira access is free in the Third Avenue Village streets, sidewalks, restaurants, and shops plus the Chula Vista library branch, police department headquarters, and a senior center in the area. Outside the free service area, Aira charges a per-minute fee for system access. In addition to promoting AR to help visually impaired people engage in the community, Chula Vista Mayor Mary Casillas Salas and Aira founder Suman Kanagunti view AR as a way to support age-friendliness in a graying world.