Aira raises $12M for software that combines AI, AR, and human agents to help the blind

By Jonah Comstock
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San Diego-based Aira has raised $12 million to continue developing its smart glasses that combine AI and remote human agents to help blind and low-vision people navigate the world. JAZZ Venture Partners and Arboretum Ventures led the round and existing investors Lux Capital, ARCH Venture Partners and Felicis Ventures participated. The National Federation of the Blind joined the round as a strategic investor. The round brings the company's total funding to about $15 million.

"I am inspired by the passion that this accomplished group of investors has for our mission to further enhance quality of life for the blind and visually impaired community," Aira CEO Suman Kanuganti said in a statement. "By working together we can remove remaining barriers for BVI individuals to live with greater autonomy and confidence."

Aira's platform works on augmented reality glasses like Google Glass and Vuvix. Via a partnership with AT&T, the glasses can stream what a blind or visually impaired person would see to a remote agent, who can then help them with things like navigation, reading signs, or shopping. The agent is supported by a learning AI dashboard.

The company has recently moved out of beta and made the platform available for purchase in the United States, and will use the funding to hire more agents and scale the offering. 

"We are pleased that we can further fuel the tremendous momentum that Aira has achieved with its ground-breaking resource for the blind and low vision," John Harris, general partner at JAZZ Venture Partners, said in a statement. "Aira perfectly exemplifies our investment focus to partner with companies leveraging AI and cognitive science to extend the boundaries of human performance and optimize how we live, learn, work, and experience the world."

Interestingly, the same day that Aira announced its funding, Google showed off its new Google Lens project at its developer event Google I/O. One capability of the technology is to use AI to navigate indoor spaces in much the same way Google maps currently helps people navigate out of doors.

“Further out, imagine what this technology could look like for someone with impaired vision, for example," Google's VP of Virtual Reality Clay Bavor said from the stage. "Our visual positioning system with an audio interface could transform how they make their way through the world.”