Xander wins honors from the CTA Foundation and AARP for XanderGlasses, making its public debut at CES 2023 in Las Vegas.
Xander Raises $1.4M in Pre-Seed Round to Caption the World
The Xander team is thrilled to announce that we raised $1.4 million in pre-seed funding. The round was led by ...
The Xander team is thrilled to announce that we raised $1.4 million in pre-seed funding. The round was led by distinguished electrical engineer Ray Stata, co-founder, former CEO and chairman, and current board member of Analog Devices, the internationally acclaimed and award-winning global semiconductor leader. Mark Ethier, co-founder and former CEO of iZotope, an industry-leading music and audio software company, 77, and additional angel investors also contributed to the round.
Raising this pre-seed round enables Xander to accelerate the market launch of our first product, XanderGlasses — captioning glasses for the millions of people with hearing loss or auditory processing challenges who seek alternatives to hearing aids.
Understanding the Challenge
Age-related hearing loss is often gradual and many people are reluctant to get hearing aids. Despite advances in assistive hearing devices, some people find hearing aids uncomfortable and others choose not to wear hearing aids because they feel self-conscious. Even people who use hearing aids can still have trouble understanding others clearly, as devices can't always distinguish similar-sounding words. For those who can hear sounds but have challenges with the cognitive processing of speech, hearing aids can't help.
Not being able to clearly hear or follow what others are saying prevents understanding, which can be frustrating to everyone involved. Hearing impairments of any kind can make it difficult to participate in conversations with family and friends. Straining to listen or being unable to follow when someone is speaking can cause a person to miss critical words. This can foster confusion or misunderstandings during important conversations with a doctor or lawyer.
Chronic straining to hear or understand speech contributes to cognitive overload. Over time, this can prompt people to withdraw from social situations, become isolated, and even lead to cognitive decline. The problem has extensive and far-reaching implications for well-being and health. Alex Westner co-founded Xander in 2020 after learning that worldwide, over 1.5 billion people struggle with hearing loss. By 2050, the WHO projects that number will reach 2.5 billion.
Alex, co-founder and CEO of Xander, began his career in engineering, researching microphone arrays and the “cocktail party problem” — getting computers to pick out individual voices in a room — at the MIT Media Lab. He spent 18 years as a product leader in audio and music technology companies, shipping successful products that try to analyze and understand sound. In the last several years, he immersed himself in the most profound human problem related to audio — people who have trouble hearing altogether. “48 million people in the U.S. struggle with hearing loss and that will increase as the population ages," Alex explained. “Our team has spent countless hours with people of all stages of hearing loss, and XanderGlasses is the result of our customer-centered approach.”
Using Sight for Speech
XanderGlasses address some of the drawbacks people encounter with assistive hearing devices by using the sense of sight to supplement how the brain processes speech. The smart glasses are lightweight, comfortable, and accurately translate speech to text in real-time, displaying captions of in-person conversations.
Seeing captions can significantly improve cognition and understanding, especially in noisy environments and in difficult listening situations. Active listening in a conversation requires focus and engages more than hearing. Most people unconsciously observe other cues, such as facial expressions, to assist understanding. For people who are hard of hearing, Deaf, or have auditory information processing challenges, our captioning glasses provide inobtrusive assistance and significantly improve understanding of speech during conversations.
Now, Westner notes, "If you can’t hear what others are saying, XanderGlasses can help you see what others are saying.” Seeing speech in real-time can significantly improve cognition and understanding, especially in noisy environments and in difficult listening situations. Xander is on a mission to "caption the world" using augmented reality to enhance understanding in conversations and strengthen human connections.
"If you can't hear what others are saying, XanderGlasses can help you to see what others are saying."
Alex Westner, Xander Co-Founder and CEO
What Makes XanderGlasses Special
We believe that assistive technology provides the greatest benefit for people when it’s uncomplicated and reliable. XanderGlasses function like a simple "on" and "off" device. They work anywhere people need them, whether at home, at work, or in a loud public setting. In this augmented reality experience, captions display in the field of view of the wearer, which enables the wearer to look directly at the person they’re speaking with and refer to the captions as needed, instead of fumbling with complicated screens. As XanderGlasses don't rely on smartphone or cloud connectivity, they are remarkably reliable and private.
We designed XanderGlasses as an assistive device to help people to better understand speech. When we unveiled our prototype at CES 2023, we were amazed by the overwhelmingly positive response from people who tested the product.
CES 2023 featured exhibitions from 3,200 manufacturers of assistive devices and other consumer electronics. Two days before the show opened to industry attendees, journalists had the chance to explore exhibits, try products, and interview innovators. Thanks to the support of groups like the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) Foundation and the AARP Age Tech Collaborative, a surge of assistive technology devices debuted at CES this year. BridgingApps, a program of the Easter Seals Greater Houston, reviewed promising new products with the potential to help people of all abilities reach their highest levels of physical, social, and cognitive development. They named XanderGlasses in their “Favorite 5 list of up-and-coming options for the consumer technology market.” In a feature about assistive technology at CES, the Wall Street Journal highlighted XanderGlasses as one of five promising products.
Xander’s use of tech to improve the quality of life for older adults and people with disabilities has earned several awards. In late 2022, we won a Catalyst Award from the U.S. National Academy of Medicine as part of the Healthy Longevity Global Competition. We won the Eureka Park Accessibility Contest sponsored by CTA Foundation at CES 2023 and won the Audience Choice Award at the CTA’s CES 2023 Pitch Contest. Xander was a finalist in the AARP’s AgeTech After Dark competition in 2023, and a finalist in the Eddies (formerly the New England Innovation Awards) in 2021.
The Xander team is launching a pilot with the Veteran's Health Administration in February 2023. Thanks to this funding round, we hope to have two models of XanderGlasses available for purchase in mid-year 2023. The pricing is not yet finalized, but both models of our captioning glasses will cost less than the average pair of hearing aids.