UC San Diego is the First Aira-enabled University in the United States
September 5th, 2018
An Aira Explorer and student at University of California San Diego wearing an orange polo shirt, his Aira Smart Glasses, and holding his white cane. He is standing in front of UCSD's iconic Geisel Library with a smile on his face. Photo by Erik Jepsen, UC San Diego Publications.
Blind and low vision members of UC San Diego’s campus community have access to pioneering accessibility technology
Aira is pleased to announce that the University of California San Diego is the first Aira-enabled university in the United States. Aira, a San Diego-based startup, leverages wearable technology, artificial intelligence and live, human agents, to deliver real-time visual description for people who are blind or have low vision. UC San Diego is the first university to join the Aira Campus Network, offering access to the pioneering accessibility technology to vision impaired members of its entire campus community including students, staff, and faculty.
The seeds for starting Aira were planted in 2014 when Suman Kanuganti, an MBA student at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management, was inspired by a close friend who lost his vision. Kanuganti then founded and developed Aira (EYE-rah) – a service that enables blind and low-vision individuals to connect with a network of certified agents via smart glasses and smartphones, allowing agents to see a blind person’s environment in real time.
“We are proud to showcase innovation developed by UC San Diego alumni,” said Chancellor Pradeep K. Khosla. “Offering Aira’s groundbreaking technology to blind and low vision students, staff and faculty underscores our campus commitment to creating a more inclusive community.”
Kanuganti noted, “As an alumnus, UC San Diego has a special place in my heart. We are based here in San Diego and have received so much support from the university as our company continues to grow. We are quite proud to see UC San Diego become the first university in the Aira Campus Network.”
One tap of a button instantly connects blind and low vision individuals with a professional Aira agent who delivers visual assistance anytime and anywhere. Serving as visual interpreters for the blind, the agents help users accomplish a wide range of daily tasks—from navigating busy streets to recognizing faces to traveling the world. The technology can be accessed through any camera-enabled iOS or Android device using the app and can be paired with smart glasses provided by Aira as part of a paid subscription.
UC San Diego is partnering with Aira to enhance the college experience for people who are blind or have low vision. The La Jolla, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and Hillcrest campuses are now Aira Access Locations—offering access to the Aira service at no cost to campus community members.
Jimmy Cong, a vision impaired UC San Diego student, began using Aira last September as a beta-tester for the technology. A double major in both music composition and visual arts/digital media, Cong was diagnosed with retina blastoma when he was three months old. He uses the agent-assisted service in traveling around campus, helping to see the touchscreen on the microwave or difficulty with an ATM, and with assignments.
“If a professor sends me a document at 4:30 p.m. and the Office for Students with Disabilities is closing soon, what do I do? I can send the PDF to the Aira agent and they can either type it all out, or I just ask them to read it and I take notes on my end,” he said
An added benefit for Cong—Aira assists with his DJ sideline as well. “I go by ‘DJCJ’ and I have DJed for countless events both around campus and off campus. Besides using Aira for traveling, reading inaccessible PDF documents, and navigating software applications, Aira has definitely helped me in using DJ equipment that is not accessible for those with low vision.”
Cong added, “Aira is basically like a friend with you 24-7. Aira makes it possible for me to regularly participate in class with the other students. That’s the biggest thing.”
To learn more about Aira, visit aira.io or call 1-800-835-1934.
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AI stands for Artificial Intelligence; RA stands for Remote Access. When you put them together you get Aira. Aira is a service that uses artificial intelligence and augmented reality to connect people to highly trained, remotely-located agents. At the touch of a button, Aira delivers instant access to information, enhancing everyday efficiency, engagement, and independence. Learn more at https://aira.io/
About UC San Diego
At the University of California San Diego, we constantly push boundaries and challenge expectations. Established in 1960, UC San Diego has been shaped by exceptional scholars who aren’t afraid to take risks and redefine conventional wisdom. Today, as one of the top 15 research universities in the world, we are driving innovation and change to advance society, propel economic growth and make our world a better place. Learn more at www.ucsd.edu.