Developer behind navigation tool for the blind wants to use veterans as guides

It also sees applications for broader patient populations.

The co-founder and CEO behind Aira.IO, a navigation tool designed for visually impaired people to give them an extra layer of support, said in a phone interview that it also sees applications for its smart glass-enabled tool for other conditions.

The company just raised a seed round as it prepares for a launch in the middle of next year.

“Once we roll this out for the vision impaired, we want to reach out to other patient populations such as people with autism and dementia,” Suman Kanuganti said.

Its navigation comes from trained agents who tap into Google Glass or another smart glass tool and give the wearer audio instructions based on what they see in front of them and where they are trying to go.

Kanuganti explained that the idea behind the company came about last year when he was studying for his MBA. Based in San Diego, he envisions a two-tiered, monthly subscription business model. Trained agents will be the first form of the program available. It plans to start with 20-30 agents and expects to follow up its seed round with a Series A to support the first step in its product launch.

As far as agents are concerned, Kanuganti thinks disabled veterans could play a role — San Diego has a large Naval base. he also hopes that disabled veterans would use the product. Kanuganti also sees a big desire by people to help in this capacity. When it advertised for five agent navigators for a series of Beta tests of the platform, it received a more than 150 applicants.

Although the service will initially be available in California, he sees that changing as the company grows.

What’s interesting about the technology platform Kanuganti has developed is that several companies have developed machine learning tools for image recognition. He sees potential to collaborate with different companies to automate some of the tasks that an agent might carry out, such as alerting a user to a concrete sidewalk changing into a gravel path through a company like Clarifai, for example. It collaborates with Uber to order rides for users.

Among its advisers are Ray Kurzweil, a director of engineering at Google, Erik Weihenmayer, a blind athlete and the first blind person to scale Mount Everest.  Dean Kamen is founder of DEKA Research & Development Corp, and Michael Hingson, an advocate for blind and disabled people, and author Christine Ha.