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AUGMENTED ABILITY: HOW SMART TECH IS MAKING ASSISTIVE TECHNOLOGY SMARTER

When I walked into an Arlington, VA coffee shop to meet Candice Jordan, I felt the usual anxious vigilance I get when I’m looking for a person I’ve never met. People are usually great at producing obvious body-language signals that indicate they’re also waiting for a stranger, but Candice wouldn’t be looking for me: She’d be listening. She did display a few great cues, thankfully. A patient, doe-eyed Labrador retriever named Austria rested by her side, and a clutch of electronic gadgets were spread before her on the table.

Candice also had a Google Glass headset perched on the bridge her nose. It was this that I’d really come to talk to her about. After we exchanged pleasantries, she gave me a quick rundown on her recent life—one in which smart assistive technology is playing an increasingly important role. AI-enabled eyesight services, smart hearing aids, and other intuitive, connected technology is changing the game for people with disabilities.

VISION QUEST

Candice lost her sight entirely in college in 1998, at the age of 21, waking up blind one morning after months of declining vision because of worsening, inoperable cataracts. She worked with her university to complete her degree in psychology and then obtained a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling; she’s been working for the District of Columbia government’s Rehabilitation Services Administration since 2007.

So why Google Glass? Candice uses it with Aira, a new service she subscribes to: It connects her with a human agent who uses video feed from the headset or a phone’s camera to describe her environment for her and help navigate her through it. The agent also has access to a dashboard of data about her preferences, multiple maps, and information about her physical location. Aira can tell her as much

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