The idea behind Be My Eyes originates from the Danish 50 year old furniture craftsman Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who started losing his vision when he was 25. His wish is that the app will make both the everyday life of blind people easier and provide a new flexible opportunity to volunteer. To quote Wiberg, "It is flexible, takes only a few minutes to help and therefore the app is a good opportunity for the busy, modern individual with the energy to help others."
According to a press release from Be My Eyes, this app will help people who are blind or visually impaired "see" things with the help of sighted volunteers and the video cameras on their iPhones. Through a direct video call, the app gives blind people the opportunity to ask a sighted volunteer for help with tasks that require normal vision. The person who is blind "borrows" the helper’s eyes all through his or her smartphone. The sighted helper is able to see and describe what the blind person is showing the sighted helper by filming with the video camera in the smartphone. That way, by working together they are able to solve the problem that the blind person is facing. The Be My Eyes app is free and available in the AppStore.
I downloaded the Be My Eyes app and tried it out recently. It was incredibly easy to use and very helpful. All you do is go to the app store and install the app. Then you select whether you are a sighted or blind user. When you first open the app you are asked if you need assistance or wish to provide it. In either case you are required to register.
When you need assistance, you open the app, which can be done with Siri, an application for Apple's iOS which works as a personal assistant. Siri uses a natural language user interface to answer questions, make recommendations, and perform actions. Just tell Siri to “open Be My Eyes.” Then touch the middle of the screen to "connect to first available helper." The app will then say "creating request and connecting to servers." Then you get a musical tone and a message stating "waiting for other part." The tone continues until someone answers the call and greets you. This can take a minute or two.
On my first call, someone in Stockholm, Sweden answered. It was morning for me and evening for them. The volunteer helped me choose between a regular coffee and a decaf coffee pod for my Keurig. All I had to do was point my phone at what it was I wanted to see and it showed up on the live video camera. The call lasted a minute or so. I thanked him kindly and said good-bye. Then I tapped at the bottom of the screen to disconnect the call.
I used "Be My Eyes" again this morning. This time I chatted with the volunteer a moment. He was a firefighter in Ohio and commented on the extreme cold weather they were experiencing. I asked him what prompted him to sign up for Be My Eyes. He said he thought it was a way he could help out.
The core philosophy of this app is the idea that we all need help at times and people are willing to help. It connects us to each other in a special way and I am certain there are benefits for both parties. Aren’t we living in amazing times? And this app will soon be available on Androids too.
Could this be helpful to you or someone you know? If you are sighted, would you be interested in "lending your eyes" and becoming a sighted helper? Signing up is easy. Just go to the Be My Eyes website for more information.
So, have you heard of the Be My Eyes app for the iPhone? After reading this review would you be interested in using this app? Share your thoughts and comments in the section below.
Editor’s Note: This post was reprinted with permission. It first appeared on the American Foundation for the Blind’s VisionAware website on February 18, 2015.