I am always looking for ways to improve and expand my AIRA life. Ways to mix it up, enrich my experiences and discover new and better ways to demonstrate the power, potential and efficacy of AIRA. So, when my friend Brad Snyder told me that he had just purchased the glasses, well, I had to follow suit. Now, while this article is for my fellow Explorers and perspective AIRA users, I want the public at large to take the time to read through this because they are not just a single use piece of technology for the Blind and Low Vision, no, they are an awesome piece of wearable technology that I believe anybody would enjoy owning. So, in this review of the glasses I will explain my experiences with the glasses as well as my wife Kelly’s experience, a totally sighted individual to show the crossover ability of the BOSE AR glasses.
The glasses came packaged simply, but with that “Bose” new smell feel whenever you open something that is high quality. The package contained simply a glass case, which is a unique triangle case with a magnetic latch, the BOSE AR glasses as well as a small satin bag containing the special charging adapter, that’s it! The first downside and perhaps the only downside is the charging adapter. It is the standard USB charger, however, the charging end that magnetically attaches to the glasses for charging is not universal. Loose it and you’re out of luck until you can get to the BOSE store. The fit is a potential downside and for a price tag of $199 you might be disappointed but don't despair. I immediately walked over to the nearest Lens crafters and had them work their magic custom fitting them for me.
You have to look at these glasses as simply a Bluetooth connected set of speakers. They do come with a built-in microphone and as a headset they perform very well. BOSE claims a 4-hour use time, and for the most part I have found that to be pretty accurate. The magnetic charger is pretty quick so if you are on the go and away from power a travel charger is just as effective and mine holds an additional 3 charges giving me easily 12 hours out of the house. There are some features that help manage battery life. If the glasses are removed, they go into standby mode. If they are not active for 45 seconds or so they will also go into standby mode. This does help someone who is using the glasses like the AIRA user or someone who uses them to answer and take or make calls. There are no complicated buttons, just a single multi-function button and you control the volume via the device you are connected to. Set up is about as easy as it gets, let’s just say that if a blind guy can do it, well, anybody can. Now for performance. These glasses live up to the BOSE name with unparalleled sound quality. The most interesting feature of these glasses is that even listening to music at full volume, the user is the only person who can hear the music. Don't ask me how BOSE continues to blow my mind when it comes to sound quality and now sound projection but they still do. If you are a user of Bluetooth that has sensitive ears and you don't like anything in your ears or pressing on or covering them, these are for you. If you can tolerate wearing a pair of glasses, you will do just fine.
For the average consumer, these perform very well. Kelly and I spent a day at the pool, listening to music, taking a few calls and entertaining everybody we saw. When you put these glasses on someone as the music plays, Kelly says that you can see them light up and that is where the questions begin and the first thing out of just about anybody’s mouth is, “These are awesome, what are they and where can I get a pair?” In the end if you are looking for a new pair of Bluetooth speakers that are fashionable and a definite conversation starter. If you love your music on the go and love the BOSE sound experience and want to answer calls as you’re on the move, then these are definitely worth the price of admission.
Now for my AIRA friends, both those currently using the platform and those considering the platform, here is my breakdown for you. Like I have already mentioned, in the end these are just a set of Bluetooth speakers and what I am going to describe in all reality can be accomplished using any Bluetooth speaker / microphone headset. However, there are some upsides for us. The first upside is that you are dealing with BOSE and their customer service is top notch. The salesman actually allowed me to pair my iPhone to the demo-set of glasses and give them a tumble through the store. It was a great experience since the salesman was as excited to see AIRA in action as I was to see how the BOSE frames performed and fit. It was a win-win experience and something he could share with future customers. The next upside is the partnership between BOSE and AIRA. Anybody who currently uses the Horizon glasses or the Austria model know that there are wires and Mobil Wi-Fi pucks and the need for either headphones that plug into the phone or connect via Bluetooth. I can see a day when BOSE integrates a camera into the glasses thus eliminating the need for cords and headsets et all. With BOSE and AIRA working together I can see the day when our setup is reduced to just a pair of glasses and a phone, something that every single person wears and carries making us not stand out as much. The current incarnation of the BOSE glasses is not a apple for apple replacement of the Horizon or Austria glasses provided by AIRA however, I see them as a cheaper alternative if you can’t afford the steep price of the AIRA glasses and pricing plans. With a lanyard, I paid less than $2 for, I wear a phone around my neck and utilize the camera in my phone and sport the BOSE AR glasses and I am off. If you use a chest mount for your phone that works as well. This reduces the cost of your plan by not adding the cost of the Horizon or Austria glasses to your bill and you can help support the partnership between the two companies. To be fair, some may not be able to afford the BOSE AR glasses either and in that case as I have stated, the glasses are after all just a Bluetooth speaker with a mic. My experience so far has been excellent. I wore them to the 2019 GAAD Event held at AT&T’s downtown Dallas headquarters and demonstrated their use. For demonstration purposes, this setup is a little easier to show because I can simply take the glasses off and hand them to someone, allowing them to talk to the agent and hear a description of themselves since we are usually facing each other. If they want to take them for a short stroll I simply remove the lanyard and off they go. I find that for demonstration purposes the transfer of the tech is far easier than past experiences with the horizon rig. In the end, all of this excited me as I see a brighter future and a less encumbered user experience for the “AIRA Explorer.” I say that because it wasn’t that long ago that we were all carrying around a mobile Wi-Fi puck, our phone and a pair of glasses. Now we have eliminated the Wi-Fi puck and hopefully soon we will eliminate the wires.
I find it refreshing to see the AIRA team partnering with new and innovative companies to improve wearable technology. The fact that BOSE is synonymous with sound quality and AIRA is the single greatest advance in augmented sight for the blind and low vision means that the future will witness the possible emergence of a truly dynamic duo. As I mentioned above, we have witnessed change, improvements, to this technology in very short order, imagine what can be accomplished if we all work to support AIRA, their ambitions and their partnerships. I have always lived by a few sayings, this is one, “As a blind person I may not be able to see the world, however, that doesn’t mean that I can’t make the world see me.” AIRA and companies like BOSE are making it much easier for me to make the world stand up and take notice. These technologies have freed me in ways that are difficult to explain but hopefully as I continue to write about My AIRA Life, you as the reader will get a clearer picture of what a groundbreaking advance this is for the blind and low vision community.
Photo below taken by Aira Agent Elizabeth using the Aira App on my iPhone while wearing the BOSE AR glasses (special shout out to Agents Conor and Stevens for helping me work out some bugs in my process) We talked throughout the “Photo Shoot” and Elizabeth told me that this picture works. This is the rig I find most effective to demonstrate the power and effectiveness of AIRA. Imagine being either blind or low vision and this is all that it takes to walk out your front door and begin to experience the world as an AIRA Explorer. The future is here! (please refer to the Disclaimer below the photo)