What the Tech? App of the day: Be My Eyes
A life changing app that connects blind people with strangers who can see. Need to know which shirt is blue? Whether the expiration date has passed on a carton of milk? Blind people use the camera on their phones and sighted volunteers will answer their questions.
Some mobile apps are for entertainment, some help save money and some make life easier, but this mobile app is changing lives.
Be My Eyes is an iPhone only app that connects blind people with those who can see. By using a network of volunteers this app helps give blind people sight with some of the daily routines most of us take for granted. When a blind person needs help with simple tasks such as reading the expiration date on a carton of milk or determining a red jacket from a black one, they open the app and ask for help.
Using the phone's camera the Be My Eyes app connects the blind person with a seeing person over a video call. The blind person can then explain what it is they need help with. The volunteer on the other side of the video call responds in real time.
For example, a blind person who needs help determining a can of tomatoes from a can of beans can ask the volunteer who will answer their question. The app was developed by Hans Wiberg, a visually impaired man in Denmark who has said blind people can ask a neighbor for help with these tasks but after a few times they may become reluctant to ask again.
Be My Eyes currently has 28,501 blind people signed up for help and over 372,000 sighted volunteers. Since the app launched in 2012 over 152,000 blind people have received help.
To sign up as a volunteer users must download the app and sign up for the languages they speak. When a request comes through a volunteer gets notified by text message. If they are unable to help at that moment they can decline and Be My Eyes will summon another volunteer.
Volunteers may also indicate which times they are available.
According to the Be My Eyes website there are occasional times the app is abused. They ask users to report any abusive behavior right after the call by tapping an "abuse" button. When one is reported the user is blocked from the network. Be My Eyes excludes individuals under the age of 17.
According to the website it may take weeks for a volunteer to receive their first request since there are currently some 10 times the number of volunteers to the number of blind people using the app.