Going into CES, we knew there would be a big focus on health and wellness tech, including gadgets and gizmos to help you track health stats and vitals. This includes not only for active individuals but the elderly as well, along with products to aid in patient care. But one tech category that crept up as a key theme was accessibility tech.
Smart Glasses Aren’t Just About Music
While CES 2023 showcased plenty of smart glasses that can do things like play audio from well-known brands, start-ups, and even celebrities like Paula Abdul, there were others designed specifically to help those with accessibility issues.
TCL, for example, showed its RayNeo X2 AR smart glasses that use full-colour microLED optical waveguide displays and interactive features to bring data like smart navigation, auto translation in real-time with subtitles on scren, photography, and music controls right to the face. While they’re a futuristic and cool tech that lets you leave the phone in your pocket and even avoid raising your wrist to see a smartwatch, the accessibility benefits are obvious as well. Someone who might have trouble reading messages and content from a smartphone, for example, can have it up and close and personal, literally right at their eyes. The best part is that the RayNeo X2 glasses look like traditional thick-framed glasses. They’ll be available for the developer community at the end of Q1.
Another option for the visually impaired that were shown at CES 2023 are the XRAI Glass AR smart glasses. With these, you can literally see conversations as subtitles across the frames. As someone speaks, the words are translated to digital text that scrolls across the screen, after which you can respond audibly. They use deep learning technology, and even respond to voice commands so you can say things like “Hey XRIA, what’s the weather like?” and it will provide a report on screen via text. They can transcribe in multiple languages and work with the complementary XRAI Glass app, which is available in the Google Play Store.
The Solos Airgo PRO hearing glasses, meanwhile, are designed for those who are hard of hearing. Boasting an open-ear design, they help you hear better thanks to the directional speaker that will not only boost the audio but also make it clear where the sound is coming from. Since it’s an open-ear design, you also have situational awareness of the surroundings. But they also work to exclude ambient noise and reduce wind in outdoor or loud settings.
Hearing Aids That Look Like True Wireless Buds
Another focus was on a reinvention of the traditional hearing aid with models that look just like true wireless earbuds. The over-the-counter hearing aid category has even taken on a name for itself, coined several years ago: hearables. And these devices were available in droves at CES 2023, boasting more stylish and inconspicuous designs.
One of the most exciting products in this space at CES 2023 was the Sennheiser Conversation Clear Plus buds, which are designed to enhance speech so those who are hard of hearing can better hear those speaking to and around them. Automatic Scene Detection can even analyze the level of noise in a room or setting and adjust the audio enhancements accordingly. Meanwhile, you can also manually choose how much ambient noise you want to hear, adjusting for the perfect sound based on each individual setting and as your needs arise or change. With up to nine hours per charge and another 27 using the included charging case, they will easily last all day for those who need them. Pricing in Europe is 849 Euros which would translate to about $1,224 in Canada.
Another option is the Eargo 7, the seventh-generation model from this company, which has been designing hearable devices since 2015. It offers new sound adjustments and a Clarity Mode that can either enhance speech or reduce noise based on what’s needed most based on the specific environment. They are IPX7 water resistant and run for a generous 16 hours per charge. They will cost US$2,950.
Even Sony is getting into the market with its new CRE-C10 self-fitting hearing aids that were designed in partnership with hearing aid manufacturer WS Audiology. Selling for $1,000, they fit into the ear canal so they are barely detectable and can be set up for a customized listening experience with the Sony | Hearing control app. The FDA-registered medical device comes with four sleeve sizes designed for the most comfortable and effective fit. They can automatically analyze and adjust the sound enhancement as needed and include noise reduction and focused microphones. Get up to 70 hours of listening per charge of the battery.
At US$699, Nuheara’s new hearing aids are among the most affordable shown at CES. Designed in partnership with HP, the HP Hearing Pro adopt the same true wireless earbud look along with active noise cancellation.
Home Theatre Tech
Accessibility was a theme across all the major TV manufacturers as well, with various features designed to help make dialogue clearer, pictures brighter, and sound overall more balances. Beyond that, Samsung has taken things a step further this year with its Relumino Mode. The feature was initially launched in 2017 for Samsung smartphones when used with a Samsung Gear VR device, but this is the first time an enhanced version is making its way to TVs. Set to be available on some 2023 model smart TVs, Relumino Mode is designed to help those with vision impairments see more clearly. It works by outlining objects on screen then enhancing contrast, adjusting brightness, improving colours, and sharpening the content, overall. The difference for those who have some sight, as demonstrated in a video played during the press conference, is pretty staggering.
For gaming, Sony is working on Project Leonardo, a customizable controller kit for the PlayStation 5 for those who have limited motor control. For someone who has issues positioning their thumbs and fingers in the right places on the controller, pressing small buttons, or even holding the controller for long periods of time, the kit has alternatives.
This includes analog stick caps and buttons in various shapes with an expanded area of pressure points. More than one function can be mapped to the same button as well, and the layout can be customized to what’s most comfortable to them in order to get the most out of their gaming experience.
Even lipstick manufacturers are getting into the game with HAPTA, a computerized lipstick application for those with limited fine motor skills. Using built-in smart motion controls and stabilization technology, they can more easily and, most important, precisely, apply lipstick for a night out on the town or a business meeting. With customizable attachments, it moves in 360° of motion and 180° of flexion. Once they find a setting and position that works, save it to access again and again. The technology is designed for those who have diseases like Parkinson’s or others that impact balance or cause things like tremors.