Although blind people are generally capable of going about things unaided, there are times when seeing something is a necessity. A new mobile app aims to help the blind in those situations. Be My Eyes connects individuals in need of visual assistance with sighted volunteers via a video call.
There is a simple brilliance about Be My Eyes. It uses existing technology with which people are widely familiar and applies it to a problem that is significant for those that it affects. While the technology may not be innovative in itself, the way in which it is employed certainly is. The result is an app that can not only make a real difference to blind users, but enables altruism and develops understanding among those who are able to see.
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The app was conceived by Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who is visually impaired himself. Wiberg presented the idea at a Startup Weekend event in Denmark back in 2012, and a test version of the app is since said to have been positively received by the blind community. The app was launched proper earlier this month.
There are two groups of people who can use the Be My Eyes app – those who are blind and may require sighted assistance at some point, and those who are willing and able to provide assistance. On opening the app, users indicate which group they fall into. It is then possible for blind users to request assistance from the first available sighted user.
Once an available helper is found, the app sets up a video call between the users. The blind user is then able to explain their problem and point their phone towards the subject they need to see. The helper is able to ask questions and converse with the blind user, and to provide instruction as to how the phone may need to be aimed or positioned in order for them to provide the required assistance.
We've no word on whether the system includes any safeguards against malicious misuse by sighted "helpers" (such as deliberately offering false advice or feedback to blind users), but have reached out for confirmation and will provide an update when we find out more.
The app is currently only available on the iPhone. A version for Android users is said to be currently under development.
Be My Eyes is a non-profit organization and is funded until September of this year. By then, it says it will need to have worked out a sustainable business model, with subscription and/or donations-based approaches both having been mooted.
The video below provides an introduction to the app.
Source: Be My App