Aira Completes Successful Trials, Closes Seed Financing
October 29th, 2015
Aira, the leading visual interpreter for the blind, today announced the successful completion of a multi-phase beta trial testing its technology-enabled service with more than 100 blind and low-vision (BVI) users. The beta trials were conducted at various locations throughout Southern California, including the San Diego Center for the Blind (SDCB), and evaluated Aira’s assistive technology and services in simulated and actual real-life settings with BVI participants. These scenarios — in which participants were assisted by agents via Aira’s high-tech dashboard platform and users’ Google glasses — included: navigating busy city streets and intersections; being in a hotel, locating and identifying canned goods in a kitchen, selecting clothing in a simulated department store setting, shopping at a supermarket, ordering a beverage at a coffee shop, and traveling by foot and public transportation to specific locations.
The majority of BVI participants, in their feedback following the trial sessions, expressed confidence in Aira’s ability to assist them like no other service in a wide range of daily tasks and activities. Many users said that Aira could even be a “life changer.” During the trials, various metrics were also documented, including the length of time it took users to complete tasks, and the level of difficulty/success and confidence that users had in completing activities with and without Aira assistance. For tasks in which users did not wear Aira smart glasses, they were free to use any assistive devices they normally use in daily life.
“Assistive technology is one of the most challenging fields in science today — encompassing such diverse fields as artificial intelligence, computer engineering, cognitive science, health sciences, and mobility and orientation training,” says Larry Bock, Aira’s Executive Chairman. ¨What Aira has accomplished in a relatively short period of time is extraordinary, and will be transformative for the more than twenty million Americans with visual disabilities.”
Actual quotes from trial participants:
“With Aira, I don’t view myself as handicapped. Knowing that there is someone there to help you makes a big difference.” — Tina S.
“Aira is so valuable that it becomes your next best friend…it could change your life.” — Tom H.
Seed Financing Led by Lux Capital and ARCH Venture Partners
The company also announced it had closed a $790K Seed financing led by leading early-stage technology investors, Lux Capital and ARCH Venture Partners, to advance its mission to develop innovative, personalized assistive technology and services that bring greater independence for blind and low-vision individuals.
¨We are extremely pleased to receive early-stage funding from two firms as well-regarded as Lux and ARCH,¨ says Aira Co-Founder and CEO Suman Kanuganti. “We appreciate the confidence they’ve placed in our mission to develop high-tech, user-friendly assistive products and services benefiting the visually impaired.¨ Aira is also backed by industry leading inventors and blind champions, such as, legendary Ray Kurzweil, guru of the law of accelerated returns, and Erik Weihenmayor, the blind adventurer and international speaker.
Aira expects to make its services and technology available to the general public in late-2016.