New Technology Helps Blind Navigate Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport

January 03, 2018 06:19 PM

New technology designed to help the blind and visually impaired is now up and running at Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport.

Airport executives announced the debut of Aira Wednesday. The technology uses special glasses equipped with a camera that provide a live feed to Aira employees. The agents, as they are called, then help guide the blind and give them a detailed description of their surroundings.


MSP is only the second airport in the nation to offer the program for travelers, according to Brian Ryks, CEO of the Metropolitan Airports Commission.

"The Aira product is a great example of innovation that marries technology and personal attention to help people with low or no vision have a very pleasurable experience," Ryks said during a press conference Wednesday. "For us, it's really about providing the best personal experience for any traveler coming through this facility."

Kevin Phelan, Aira's vice president, was on hand for the announcement. He said when users sign up, glasses are sent to them. Aira is modeled as a subscription service, starting at $89 a month.

But using it inside MSP is free.

Greg Stilson is blind and uses the service. He flew into MSP Wednesday morning for the announcement and activated Aira as soon as he got off the plane.

"As soon as I logged into that app and made that phone call, (the Aira agent) was able to see not only my location, but she could see the map of the airport," Stilson said before demonstrating the app. "She could see any points of interest that were around.

"Aira puts the independence back in the user's hands so they're able to go where they want to go and make stops on the way."

Phelan said the company has users and agents all over the country, and that the tech startup is looking to expand to more airports and transit centers.


Kirsten Swanson

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