Parentology previously explored various technologies and apps for the blind and visually impaired. But apps that are helpful in everyday situations may not work as well in an airport setting. With this in mind, we picked out a few that hold the most promise for blind or visually impaired fliers. We also take a look at the latest airport-specific apps for the blind.
Aira (Artificial Intelligence Remote Assistant) is an app that employs highly-trained remote agents to help users “see” their surroundings.
Here’s how it works: Users and sighted agents connect via a virtual dashboard. When users need assistance getting around, they grant the agent camera access through their smartphone. The trained agents give precise and accurate descriptions of the users’ surroundings. They can help read a boarding pass, direct the user to the correct departure gate, or pick out a travel pillow from the airport shop.
But there are two features in particular that make Aira especially effective for traveling. First, the app has rideshare integration to help users request an Uber or Lyft to travel to and from the airport. After a user makes a request, the agent also helps track the vehicle and lets the user know when it arrives.
Additionally, the company offers Aira Access Network, which allows users to access the app for free at select airports. So whether you have the guest plan, which is free but has limited capabilities, or an advanced plan, usage minutes don’t count when using the service at any airport within the Aira Access Network.
Be My Eyes
Be My Eyes works similarly to Aira. Users are connected to sighted individuals through a live video call. The only difference is instead of trained agents, Be My Eyes relies on sighted volunteers from around the world.
Be My Eyes is also more affordable than Aira, as it is completely free to download and use.
Since both apps employ live help, they’re more dependable than fully AI-based apps, which can be prone to error.
While not suitable for individuals with complete blindness, eSight provides independence to those with partial vision impairment.
With their promise to restore sight, these electronic glasses record and display high-resolution live footage directly in front of the wearer’s eyes. The technology is able to trigger a reaction from the user’s eyes, thereby increasing their visual acuity. Users can zoom in on detail, magnify up to 24X, and even fine-tune contrast, focus
In comparison to the previous two apps, eSight allows low vision individuals to navigate airports, and their lives, completely independently.
Airport-Specific Apps and Tech for the Blind
A number or airports are beginning to offer way-finding apps. By installing Bluetooth beacons throughout the building, these apps make indoor navigation easy and simple. But because they only provide graphical and text directions, they’re not helpful for blind users.
Carnegie Mellon University and the Pittsburgh International Airport recently launched one of the first audio airport apps for the blind. Called NavCog, this app provides turn-by-turn audio instructions inside the airport.
“Ten legally blind people tested the app using an iPhone 8 with good results, traversing the terminal’s large open spaces, escalators and moving walkways with few errors” an
The researchers also developed a companion smart suitcase that sounds an alarm to warn blind users of an impending collision with other travelers.