HOUSTON – Getting through the airport is stressful enough for those who can see. Imagine what it’s like for those who are sight-impaired.
The Houston Chronicle reports the Houston Airport System has teamed with AT&T and technology startup to make it easier for the blind and sight-limited to navigate Bush Intercontinental and Hobby airports using a modified version of Google Glass.
During a recent kickoff event at Bush, officials showed off the technology with about a half-dozen area users of the product, known as Aira, which lets an assisting remote agent see what the glasses wearer is looking at and providing a verbal description via smartphone.
Airport System Director of Government Relations Tim Joniec said the city is covering the cost of the data that flow over AT&T’s network while Aira users are in the airports up to $5,000 for this year. That may be extended if the project is a success, he said.
Google Glass, a set of smart glasses with an outward facing camera and a display that is beamed into a user’s eye, allows an agent working with an Aira subscriber to describe what’s happening and guide the user through a location.
In a demo at Bush, an agent walked a blind person through the ticketing area, guiding her around other airport patrons and reading a flight departures screen. The agent can also book flights, call for an Uber or Lyft ride and provide other services.
Aira, which spokeswoman Emily Hill likened to the familiar OnStar personal assistant service found in cars, costs between $80 and $329 monthly, depending on data usage. While the service is being used in Houston’s airports, the city is covering the cost of the minutes.
Donna Grahmann, 58, of Magnolia said while the cost was somewhat expensive, after trying it at the airport she thought it would be worth it.
“It would be very useful at the Houston Livestock Show. My husband shows border collies, and while he’s showing I could navigate around a little,” she said.