ARxVision, Seeing AI, NaviLens announce partnership for headset programme

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The UK's Royal National Institute of Blind People is the global distributor of the headset and ARxVision is partnering with the National Federation of the Blind and Vision Australia to expand global accessibility

A woman looks forward, she is viewed in profile. A digital image of a sound wave is over her ear. ©Pixsooz – stock.adobe.com

The wearable headset describes the visual world by transmitting audio via bone conduction speakers. Image credit: ©Pixsooz – stock.adobe.com

A new pilot program has launched in part of collaborative efforts between ARxVision, Microsoft’s Seeing AI app and the NaviLens app. This new program integrates the Android version of these apps with the ARx Gen 1.5 wearable headset, which describes the visual world by transmitting audio via bone conduction speakers.1

“We are very excited to partner with ARxVision in integrating NaviLens with their incredible device. Now, anybody will be able to use cutting-edge NaviLens technology hands-free!” said Javier Pita, CEO and founder of NaviLens, in a news release. “This marks a remarkable stride towards NaviLens' mission: to realize a world that is more inclusive for individuals who are blind or have low vision.”

Saqib Shaikh, software engineering manager and lead and founder of Seeing AI, said that the Seeing AI app provides an audio narration of the world they live in, which can help people with low vision or blindness navigate daily activities, from reading the newspaper to gauging social interactions. “Consider it a visual assistant, developed with and for the blind community,” he said.

Both Microsoft and ARxVision were looking to bridge the gaps in their services for people experiencing low vision and blindness, according to Charles Leclercq, CEO of ARxVision. Shaikh said Seeing AI gives new life to what is going on in someone’s environment, but it is not a hands-free experience. “It requires using a phone and holding the phone camera, and so we were thinking, how cool would it be if you didn’t need to hold something up…What’s a hands-free experience?” Shaikh said.

Additionally, Leclercq said that the headset can provide an additional safety benefit. “On the science side of things, we're seeing a lot of research papers that have been published that explained that holding a smartphone increases cognitive load, and can increase the risk of accidents and injuries,” Leclercq said.

Leclercq and Shaikh said that the ultimate goal of the headset and app integration is to extend the capabilities of smart phones, and to streamline the delivery of visual information. Now, instead of holding a phone out in front of them, people who utilise the headset now navigate the world with a phone in their pockets instead of in their hand. “You don't want to be thinking about the technology, the technology should be assisting you and blending into your daily life,” Saikh said. “I think that's the power of a hands-free solution like this.”

Leclercq said the ARx headset can also enhance patients’ access to healthcare, as they feel confident to navigate public transportation and hospitals while using the headset. With the integration of NaviLens, the headset is now able to scan codes in public transit facilities in larger cities like London, New York, Tokyo and Melbourne, among others, for additional help navigating transportation.1

Regarding technological upgrades, the new ARx headset features a 4K/8 mega pixel camera, enhanced audio, and improved button responsiveness. The shape of the buttons also differ to allow headset wearers to distinguish between them. The headset is also compatible with the ARxVision app, which offers an interactive tutorial, integration of large language models and added offline functions.1

Additionally, the United Kingdom’s Royal National Institute of Blind People is the global distributor of the headset, with ARxVision also partnering with the National Federation of the Blind and Vision Australia to expand the headset’s accessibility on a global scale.

While the headset retails at $799, it is discounted to $599 during the app pilot program. “What's really important about this price point is that we will now not only thinking about a small fraction of people who may need this product, but we're looking at the entire world,” Leclercq said. “So we're thinking about children in schools in Africa, in India. We know that this price point is still a significant investment, but it makes it accessible. It makes it a possibility for everyone who may need it.”

To participate in the pilot program, users can register for the Seeing AI app or download the latest version of the NaviLens app on Google Play after purchasing the headset.1 Shaikh said that the companies plan on working with those who participate in the pilot program in order to enhance it in the future. “It’s not just about the technology. For us it’s the conversation with the community,” he said.

Reference:

1. ARxVision Integrates with Microsoft Seeing AI app and Navilens app. ARxVision. News release. Published March 19, 2024. Accessed March 25, 2024.
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