I think we can all agree that seeing is pretty awesome. It’s amazingly helpful for getting around, spotting differences between stuff, and generally makes life easier on many levels. Unfortunately, over 285 million people are visually impaired, with 39 million of them being completely blind. Many blind or visually impaired people are able to function fairly normally, though on occasion it is simply faster or easier to ask a sighted person for help. The developers at Robotcat have made that process easier with their new app – Be My Eyes.
Be My Eyes is an iPhone app that pairs visually impaired people with sighted people willing to help. As of the time of this writing, over 55,000 sighted have signed up to help over 4,000 blind people looking for help. Those pairings have resulted in 8,779 helpful situations for the visually impaired. You can take a look at the promo video for Be My Eyes below:
Be My Eyes in many ways is a low-tech, hyper-focused version of Google’s Helpouts service. Though where Helpouts pairs the technically/artistically/etc. challenged with helpers in a very specific field, Be My Eyes wants to help the visually challenged with general day-to-day tasks. As outlined in their promo video, these tasks can be as simple as reading the expiration date on a carton of milk, differentiating a can of soup from a can of cat food, or printing a family portrait rather than something else entirely.
The intended use for Be My Eyes is for quick assistance where vision can easily help a particular situation. I’d think that anything past that could lead to potential problems – for example, who is responsible if a user is hit by a car attempting to navigate a busy intersection? Hopefully all users will understand the limitations to this system and won’t try to get more out of the system than is intended.
All users are given an opportunity to rate their experience after each session, which helps weed out abuse or misuse. Anyone caught abusing the system will be banned. Perhaps requests outside of the normal use case could be issued a warning, to prevent any hazardous situations.
Be My Eyes is currently iOS only, though they’re open to bringing the system to other platforms. They’ve set up a Github repository with their code for people interested in helping to that end.
Be My Eyes is a not-for-profit organization, though there are costs associated with keeping the service running. In their F.A.Q. they’ve noted that their initial funding runs through September 2015, though after that they’ll need to determine a permanent way to keep the service funded. They’ve considered using a subscription model, but are also accepting donations. You can currently download the iOS app or donate on their website at the source link below.Source: BeMyEyes.org