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Smart glasses get competitive in the Boston Marathon

CNET travels to Boston to see how smart glasses changed one visually impaired marathon runner's life.

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Roger Cheng
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1 of 14 Nicholas Henry/CNET

Meet Erich Manser

Erich Manser is an avid marathon and Iron Man competitor. He also has a condition called retinitis pigmentosa, which has left him legally blind. 

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Tackling the Boston Marathon

For this year's Boston Marathon, Manser opted to run with both a physical companion and a remote guide who saw his perspective through his Google Glass. The agent is an employee of startup Aira, whose software runs on the Glass and is designed for the visually impaired. 

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A new use for Google Glass

Manser got his Google Glass from Aira, who supplies them to customers and charges a monthly rate for access to a remote agent. 

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Powering through the marathon

Manser actually didn't start with the Aira agent -- the system wasn't working. He ran with his physical guide for the first few miles before pulling over and getting Glass, his Bluetooth headset, AT&T wireless hotspot and iPhone working again. 

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The view from an Aira agent

From her office in Ohio, Aira agent Jessica Jakeway is able to see what Manser sees through Glass' forward-facing camera. She also has Google Maps up for local information like landmarks and upcoming turns. 

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Making Google Glass cool again

Google Glass was the hot new thing. Then it wasn't, as people soured on the idea of smart glasses that constantly shot video. But Glass -- and smart glasses in general -- are making a comeback thanks to new and useful applications that actually change people's lives.

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A tour through Littleton

Manser invites me into his home and shows me his neighborhood of Littleton, Massachusetts, about an hour's drive from Boston. 

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Blind leading the blind

I may be guiding Manser across the street, but he takes the lead when it comes to running through his neighborhood. 

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A little fun run

Manser talks about how the system has affected his life during our run. I struggle to keep up. 

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Google Glass stigma remains

People are still a little turned off by Google Glass and smart glasses in general, but tech companies are convinced that people will warm up to them. It starts with smart applications like Aira. 

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Trying it out for myself

Back in New York, I wanted to try out the system for myself. So I put on an eyemask and then Google Glass, and connected with Jakeway, the same agent that guided Manser. 

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An unusual walk through Central Park

I took my first few steps with a bit of trepidation. I'm completely disoriented, but slowly start to rely on Jakeway's guidance to get me through the park. 

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A few awkward stumbles

I was afraid of any big accidents. Fortunately, the only incident was a quick stumble off of the path and stubbing my toe. After a while, I was completely comfortable walking without sight. 

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You've reached your destination

After eight minutes of walking blind and averting other Central Park visitors, I make it to the end of the path, a few feet away from a model boat pond. 

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