Texas Tech University

Texas Tech Offers On-Campus, Augmented Reality Service for Visually Impaired

Amanda Castro-Crist

January 2, 2019

Double T

As part of the Aira Campus Network, the university now provides free, on-campus access to highly trained, remotely located agents who provide the visual information needed to navigate the campus, classes and everyday tasks.

Texas Tech University's Student Disability Services (SDS) has partnered with Aira, a software company that assists blind and visually impaired people, to offer an augmented reality resource that can help increase a person's mobility and independence while they are on campus.

As part of the Aira Campus Network, the university now provides anyone on campus free access to highly trained, remotely located agents who can provide real-time visual information about the person's surroundings.

To use the service, a person contacts an agent using a free smartphone app (available at the iTunes App Store or the Google Play Store) or through a pair of Aira's Horizon Smart Glasses. Aira works by letting agents see the user's surroundings via the camera in their phone or glasses. The agent describes these surroundings to the user, allowing them to accomplish a variety of tasks.

Larry Phillippe, managing director of SDS, said offering this technology free of charge to any person on campus is one more way the university is working to provide a fully accessible campus to anyone, regardless if they are working, studying or just visiting Texas Tech.

"This technology is especially important in certain parts of our campus, like those under construction, areas closed off by barriers or traffic cones due to special events or sidewalks and ramps obstructed by ride-sharing scooters and other objects," Phillippe said.

Aira users on the Texas Tech campus will be able to safely explore outdoor spaces and independently locate elevators, doors and stairs in buildings. Aira agents can help users find objects needed for work or study or identify other people they are meeting. They also can provide users the technical support needed to operate digital screens, computers and other electronics. With Aira, those who are blind or visually impaired can instantly access information on things like campus digital signs and presentation slides.

Those using Aira also can navigate the on-campus public transportation options provided by Citibus or use the app to connect to Uber and Lyft ride-sharing services, which allows agents to assist with scheduling rides and identifying the vehicle when it arrives.

"Providing this service helps bring our campus to compliance in regards to regulations of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires all areas of the campus be accessible and usable by individuals with disabilities," Phillippe said. "Just as importantly, it demonstrates a commitment to creating a fully inclusive environment for anyone who steps onto the Texas Tech campus."

For more information about the service, visit the Aira website.

For more information about additional services and resources on the Texas Tech campus, visit the Student Disability Services website.