Emmitt Smith uses Aira to give play-by-play of the Cowboys-Rams game to a blind fan (not pictured) as Aira CEO Suman Kanuganti, left, watches. Aira Handout
Emmitt Smith uses Aira to give play-by-play of the Cowboys-Rams game to a blind fan (not pictured) as Aira CEO Suman Kanuganti, left, watches. Aira Handout

Dallas Cowboys

Emmitt Smith, play-by-play voice? It happened Sunday for one blind fan

By Elizabeth Campbell

liz@star-telegram.com

October 01, 2017 08:44 PM

UPDATED October 01, 2017 08:49 PM

ARLINGTON

Pete Lane usually relies on listening to the radio to get descriptions of his favorite sport, football.

But Lane, who is blind, never thought he would get to listen to one of his idols, Dallas Cowboys legend Emmitt Smith, describing real time action at the Dallas Cowboys and Los Angeles Rams game on Sunday afternoon at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. With the help of smart glasses used to transmit video and audio via a high-speed link to Smith, Lane experienced the sounds and sights of the game much like other fans at the game.

Lane, who is from Jacksonville, Florida, was selected for the event to highlight technology developed by a startup company, Aira.

“I’ve attended live sporting events, but they are difficult to follow. You don’t know which way to turn your head, where the ball is, which way to look on the field or where the team is,” he said.

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“With Emmitt telling me that the team is on the 30-yard line, or that they have third or fourth down, it was absolutely amazing,” Lane said.

When Lane and his family watch sports, his wife and sons usually watch the games on TV while he listens to the radio. But Aira, with headquarters in San Diego, gives him another option.

The smart glasses work in conjunction with a smartphone app that allows a blind person to get verbal descriptions from agents who are specially trained on how to give detailed descriptions of everything from sporting events to navigating through airports.

Aira has a partnership with Dallas-based AT&T to provide high-quality connections for the service and to work with Aira on expanding the technology for more uses.

Smith said he flew to California to get training and added that he is excited about helping to provide more opportunities to blind people.

“The technology is wonderful,” he said.

Suman Kanuganti, founder and CEO of Aira, said Sunday’s game was also a “great way” to kick off the national Meet the Blind Month, sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind.

“Using Aira, a football fan was able to experience a game like never before,” Kanuganti said in a statement. “Emmitt was an outstanding Aira agent. The way he described the game was amazing. If he ever gets bored in retirement, he needs to come join Aira.”

For Lane, who produces a podcast called Blind Abilities, using the smart glasses helps increase his independence and productivity.

Lane, who is retired, said that besides enjoying sports, he uses the Aira service when he wants to read his mail, take the bus to meet a friend or do errands for his family.

He was chosen to participate Sunday in part because he was involved in AT&T’s Experience More project to help blind and low-vision people get more out of technology.

Elizabeth Campbell: 817-390-7696, @fwstliz

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Prescotte Stokes III pstokes@star-telegram.com