Comcast announced this week it has partnered with a California-based tech company to assist Xfinity customers who are visually impaired in watching television.
NuEyes uses virtual reality technology in its e2 smartglasses, along with a VR magnifying device that enhances the usable vision of a person who is visually impaired. The company launched in 2016 with the device to help those with eye conditions such as macular degeneration, glaucoma and retinitis pigmentosa see loved ones’ faces, read, cook or watch TV.
Tom Wlodkowski, VP of accessibility at Comcast, said that someone from the product team met the startup at a consumer electronics show in 2017, and wanted to make a partnership work. NuEyes’ technology allows for mainstream apps to be viewed by people who are visually impaired through its glasses.
“As the startup matured, we became confident we could stream the Xfinity [Stream] app in the glasses,” Wlodkowski said.
Wlodkowski, who is blind, said that people with visual impairments will often move to inches away from a television in order to watch it. A woman who recently tried out the device told Wlodkowski that she saw the lower thirds on a news show for the first time in years, he said.
NuEyes CEO Mark Greget said working with Comcast has allowed the startup to stream television “in a way that has never been done before.”
“It enables millions of visually impaired people to continue enjoying their TV experience and more,” the founder and veteran said.
The companies have worked with a handful of people to test the product, including James Baldwin, an 18-year Army veteran who lost most of his vision a few years ago. For the first time in years, he was able to see his wife and pictures of family members, according to a Comcast video about his experience.
On Comcast’s part, the partnership was a light lift, Wlodkowski said, and a reminder for his team that if they’re not always building inclusive experiences directly into their products, they can partner with teams who do.
“We will definitely explore how we can customize it. We said, ‘Let’s start here and get some feedback, and then see how and what we want to do with it,'” Wlodkowski said.
NuEyes e2 glasses retail for $2,995, and like any other assistive or medical device, insurance coverage varies by carrier. The Xfinity Stream app is pre-installed on NuEyes e2.
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