The AtlanticThe Atlantic

Life is about to come with subtitles

By Rachel Kolb

28 May 2023 · 7 min read

informed Summary

  1. The advancements in augmented-reality live-captioning glasses, such as the Xander prototype, offer the potential to shift from lipreading to actual reading in conversations.

When I was a deaf kid growing up in the 1990s, I had two recurring fantasies. One was that more hearing people would learn American Sign Language. The other was that, one day, the whole world would be captioned, just like TV shows and movies. I imagined pulling on sleek sci-fi glasses, and voilà: The tangle of spoken words around me would unravel into beautiful, legible, written English.

The second of my childhood reveries came back to me recently when I sat down in a quiet on-campus atrium at Harvard with Alex and Marilyn Westner, the co-founders of the Boston-area start-up Xander, who had invited me to chat over coffee after seeing me quoted in a newspaper article about their company’s augmented-reality live-captioning glasses. They slid a bulky prototype across the table, and I put the glasses on my face. Immediately, written words scrolled across a translucent digital box above my right eye.

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