Editor's Note: Each year, AccessWorld writers who attend the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference detail the most cutting edge or noteworthy pieces of technology they encounter. This year, Judy Dixon brings us details on new developments in mobility technology, AI Vision, and braille displays.

Gliding along Safely with Glide: A Revolutionary Mobility Assistant

One of the most crowded and talked about booths in the exhibit hall at CSUN this year was Glidance. This new startup founded by blind entrepreneur Amos Miller, a former employee of Microsoft, is developing Glide, a truly revolutionary mobility device for blind users.

We have seen many wearable and handheld mobility aids but Glide is completely different. It rolls along the floor with the user holding onto a handle at a 45-degree angle, much like the way a blind person uses a guide dog.

Glide has the form factor of an upright vacuum cleaner. It has a sleek, rounded main part at the bottom with a handle extending up. The height of the handle is somewhat adjustable to accommodate people of different heights. It has two wheels at the bottom that are seven inches apart.

I had the opportunity to give Glide a test drive. It is quite an unusual sensation to use this device. It doesn't pull; it does move on its own when it is leaning back but you don't have to push it either. It uses something called Passive Kinetic Guidance. All you do is Nudge it forward and the device begins to move and steer. To turn left, you twist the handle to the left and to turn right, you twist it to the right. If you want to walk faster, you just walk faster and Glide accommodates. In a crowded exhibit hall, Glide moved smoothly up and down the aisles, deftly moving around people as needed. With its cameras and sensors, it can detect both moving and stationary objects. It can recognize doors, elevators, stairs, and it knows when to stop when you have reached your goal.

There are Haptic sensors and speakers in the handle. When the handle issues a Single buzz, it is telling the user that it is going to slow down, and a double buzz means that the coast is clear. It Buzzes on the left or right when it is going to turn.

Glidance says that they are hoping to have Glide available within a year. They expect Glide to evolve a bit more as development continues. It is anticipated to eventually weigh as little as five pounds. It will probably have larger wheels enabling the device to better negotiate stairs and uneven terrain. They also expect to develop a weatherproof model enabling users to use Glide outdoors in inclement weather. It is also expected to integrate with existing map and transit apps.

More information about Glide can be found on the Glidance website. The website contains an audio-described demonstration video as well as a sign-up form where users can request to be notified as developments progress, have an opportunity to pre-order Glide when it becomes available, or become a beta tester.

Aira Launches New AI Feature

Aira, the popular visual interpreter service, announced a new AI feature called Access AI. This feature uses two AI large language models to describe images in detail and to respond to questions about them.

With version 1.21 of the Aira Explorer app, there is now an Access AI tab at the bottom of the screen. At the moment, interested Aira subscribers can request early access through a Google form on the Access AI tab. By selecting the Join Wait List button, you will be presented with a short survey. It includes questions such as How did you find out about Access AI? What is most important in an AI experience that describes images? What do you like or dislike about existing AI tools? And What do you hope to achieve with Access AI as you work with it over the longer term? After you submit the form, you will be told that explorers will be granted access over the next few weeks and months.

Once you are granted authorization, the Access AI tab in the app will change. It will have three buttons: Quick Capture – Send, Detailed Capture, and Choose from Gallery. The Quick Capture button takes a picture, provides a description, and gives you an opportunity to ask questions about it. Detailed capture presents the iOS Camera interface with its various accessibility features. After taking the picture, you have the opportunity to use the one you just took or take another one. Choose from Gallery lets you pick from the photos on your phone, provides a description, and gives you a chance to ask questions about it.

The Access AI service is similar to the Be My AI service from Be My Eyes with a few important differences. By using an enterprise version of Open AI as well as Google Gemini to generate the text responses, Access AI is able to keep all of your information within the Aira ecosystem. Access AI also allows you to verify the content of the service's response. This verification is done by a trained Aira agent, and their time is not charged against your Aira minutes. You can only take one picture per interaction. So, if you are told that the print on a package is too blurry to read, you cannot take a second picture. All you can do is start over.

For the most part, Access AI's descriptions of scenes are quite good and convey the essential information. However, AI does make mistakes called hallucinations. I had that experience at Ronald Reagan National Airport. I was trying to locate my gate. I took a picture somewhere on concourse E. The AI told me that it was an indoor airport setting with people and so forth. I asked if there was a gate number visible. It said "Yes, there is a gate number visible. It is E3."

Having been there before, I knew that the gates on the E concourse went from 46 to 59, so I had a strong suspicion that E3 was not correct. So, I tapped "Verify with Agent." After about 30 seconds, the app responded with "The response needed some changes. Here is our Visual Interpreter response: Yes, there is a gate number visible in the image. It is gate E58."

Get Moving with the Hims eMotion

Hims has launched a new braille display called the Braille eMotion. This new 40-cell device is compact and lightweight. Its dimensions are 12.6 inches long by 3.5 inches deep by 0.8 inches high and it weighs 1.6 pounds.

In addition to traditional braille display features, it includes all the multimedia features found in the new Hims SensePlayer including media player, voice recorder, and Daisy book reader. The device contains two speakers and stereo binaural microphones, and has a selection of high-quality, text-to-speech voices.

The device has built-in Wi-fi and can simultaneously connect to 1 USB device and up to 5 Bluetooth devices. The built-in applications include Notepad, Document Reader, Calculator, Alarm, Stopwatch, and Countdown Timer. It has 64 GB of Internal Storage around 43GB of which is available to the user. For external Storage the device can accept Micro SD cards and USB flash drives. It charges via a USB-c cable.

The Braille eMotion works with popular screen readers, including JAWS, NVDA, Narrator, VoiceOver, BrailleBack, and more.

You can get more information about the Braille eMotion from the Hims website.