Be My Eyes - helping blind see To Launch Worldwide on January 15, 2015

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Be My Eyes - helping blind see, an iPhone app which aims to connect blind users in need of assistance with sighted volunteers via video-conferencing, will be launching worldwide on January 15, 2015.

According to the Be My Eyes website, the app works as follows:

  • A blind user opens the Be My Eyes app and requests assistance. Provided examples of assistance requests include determining the expiration date of milk and crossing a street.
  • A volunteer receives the assistance request, and a live video conference is established.
  • Once a video connection is established, the volunteer answers the question or provides the assistance requested.

"We have been working for more that two years to make Be My Eyes a reality and we're now ready to really put Be My Eyes out there for the world to see on the 15th of January and making a difference for a lot of blind people," wrote the developers on the Be My Eyes Thunderclap page.

The Thunderclap page goes on to list more information about the app:

Be My Eyes is an iPhone app that allows blind people to get in contact with a network of sighted volunteers who, through a live video connection, can assist them with tasks that requires a pair of eyes. It’s non-profit and our goal with Be My Eyes is to create a community all about contributing to and benefiting from small acts of kindness. We have reached our first milestone by launching in Denmark and are now ready to make Be My Eyes available everywhere! Real blind people use our app to get help with anything from adjusting the thermostat to sorting the mail - it such a gratifying experience.

While we weren't immediately able to find specific information about possible pricing for the app, the Be My Eyes FAQ page indicates that a subscription model and/or donations are being considered as possible sources of funding in the future. We were also unable to find any information on what devices and iOS versions the app officially supports, although the FAQ page did indicate that volunteers could participate in the program if they had an iPhone 4S or later running iOS 7.

Tip via Bryan Smart and Blind Bargains.

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16 Comments

very poor examples of assistance tasks

I cannot fathom using video conferencing with volunteers to get assistance with crossing a street. This has so much potential for serious danger that it is impossible to discuss all of the ways it could go wrong. I sincerely hope that no one tries this.

Agreed. However, I think that

Agreed. However, I think that this could be useful for reading display screens. For instance, I have a robotic vacuum cleaner that has an on screen menu. Let's say you had to go into the menu to calibrate it's battery, or set up scheduling, or something similar, one must memorize the button presses in the menu, then go to the support page, then go to the new battery option under support. But, what if they change it when releasing new software upgrades? You could face time say an aunt or someone else in the family, that is one good option, or use this app to do it. I used tap tap see the other day, and couldn't get it to do what I wanted. Now, it said Black neat device, but that was really all I could glimpse. I knew the display was lit up, just not what it was showing. This is my great example of how this would be beneficial. Sorry for the long post guys!

Liability

I can't imagine anyone wanting to take on the liability of determining personal safety via a cell phone camera. However, let's just say that their description needs reworking.

I use Skype and FaceTime with friends for this purpose all the time. Finding doors or bus stop poles, reading digital displays, etc all become easier.

Volunteers

I worry that the volunteers won't be paid properly.

couple of points

First, is that last comment about volunteers being paid properly a joke? Very dry sense of humour if it is, but I can't be sure whether you were serious or not. For the avoidance of doubt, volunteers are seldom paid.

On the point about crossing the street and liability, of course as a matter of law there would be no liability because you're not assuming any legal duty of care. Even if you were, it'd probably be very difficult to identify the defendant. morally is another matter and I can see there being problems with crossing roads using this app.

all that means, though, is that this particular example isn't a good one, not that the app is poor. i agree with those on here who suggest it's a good idea. There are lots and lots of blind people who don't have ready access to sighted help. Anything that can improve things for people in that situation is great. for myself I don't always have guaranteed sighted help, so I daresay I shall make use of this from time to time.

couple of points

First, is that last comment about volunteers being paid properly a joke? Very dry sense of humour if it is, but I can't be sure whether you were serious or not. For the avoidance of doubt, volunteers are seldom paid.

On the point about crossing the street and liability, of course as a matter of law there would be no liability because you're not assuming any legal duty of care. Even if you were, it'd probably be very difficult to identify the defendant. morally is another matter and I can see there being problems with crossing roads using this app.

all that means, though, is that this particular example isn't a good one, not that the app is poor. i agree with those on here who suggest it's a good idea. There are lots and lots of blind people who don't have ready access to sighted help. Anything that can improve things for people in that situation is great. for myself I don't always have guaranteed sighted help, so I daresay I shall make use of this from time to time.

strett crossings

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

While there is always a risk in crossing streets for anyone, whether they have a disability or not, I do not think this is an appropriate use of the app. Giving environmental information such as where the cross walk is, which street you're facing, and so forth would be useful, but not crossing streets. It's also not something one could rely upon, even if there is no delay between the video interaction. What about coverage in that specific area? Especially when crossing at busy intersections, 1 or 2 seconds of lag time can mean the difference between a relatively safe crossing and not. These are just my thoughts. I think this holds more potential than something like VizWiz, which at first worked ok, but then kind of fell apart.

Mobility skills, anyone?

How on earth did we get to this being used for street crossings? I think any sane, well-adjusted blind person would use their cane or guide dog instead of an iPhone app like this for assistance. While something like blind square and google maps can offer assistance on your surroundings, that's not what this app is for. it's more designed for someone who needs help reading a computer screen, or something else that requires assistance. This app isn't an excuse for poor mobility skills.

Couple of Points

Actually, my comment about volunteers is deadly serious. I don't see how *any* app can keep going for very long just using volunteers. VizWiz was mentioned here and this makes my point IMO. So eventually I predict there will have to be paid personnel for the app to continue to be useful and *then* the question becomes quite relevant IMO. Besides, unless people are paid so they're subject to contract, how are the users going to know that they're getting the straight dope?

read the description about street crossings

Member of the AppleVis Editorial Team

Tune head. It's listed as one of the things that the pR person involved with the company put on their website, and it's also part of the original blog post. That's where the discussion of stret crossings comes in to play. Hope this helps.

Hi all.

Hi all.

I'm a part of this, and I'm sharing the message from the man behind this great project. I hope you'll share this, and I hope you'll hopefully find this app useful.
The message reads as follows:

I’m Hans Jørgen Wiberg, visually impaired and member of Danish Blind Society.

I’ve created the app called Be My Eyes which connects visually impaired people to a network of volunteers helpers with a live audio/video connection for iPhone and iPad. We launch the app Thursday, January 15, at noon Central European Time at which time it will be available in the AppStore worldwide. Be My Eyes is a non-profit and supported by the Danish Blind Society - because we’re non-profit we have limited resources for marketing so we hope you will help us share the message.

I hope you will help me make the members of your organization aware of this new app for example in a member magazine or through your online channels. If you have any questions please contact me.

You can find further information on our website and pictures and video material for use in member magazines or blog posts here: http://bemyeyes.org/press

Kind regards

Hans Jørgen Wiberg
skypename: hans.jorgen.wiberg
phone: +45 60 85 86 87

PS: We are trying to raise awareness on ThunderClap to attract the community of volunteers needed to help blind users. Thunderclap will share the same message at the same time on Facebook and Twitter - so if your organization has a twitter account we would greatly appreciate if you could support us there: http://bit.ly/SupportBeMyEyesOnThunderclap

big picture

I don't see how this app would be useful. For reading mail there's the KFNB reader which to me gives a better sense of privacy. I don't want volenteer reading my mail for me, unless I know them very very very well. Only time will tell if this app survives. I'm just trying to see the big picture, and it don't look good as they say.

Take care.

is that our concern?

As it is to be a network of volunteers, as stated on both the site and the article we are responding to, they will not be paid. Even if it weren't stated as such, the people who should be concerned with this aspect are those who operate the business and those doing the work, not us. If you want to pay them, they might accept it if this would not be against policy. Contact the business concerning donations if you want, but is it something for this forum to be worried abot? I've got enough problems paying my own bills, and don't need to take on the expenses of otherss' business ventures.

business ventures?

I agree with you Charles that the Financial stability of this service is ultimately up to the organization that is putting it out, however, if people are interested in using this app its ability to work long term, unlike viz wiz, should be a concern. I do not think its quite right to describe the efforts of a non profit as a business venture no matter what your Financial situation is.

Actually if it is a non

Actually if it is a non prophet orginazition it has to fall under the section I think it's 503c or somethingn of the us laws, otherwise it is a busoness venture and not legally a not for prophet according to the us anyway.

What's With All The Defeatist Rednecks Out There?

Sadlty, I have read many of the comments about this excellent idea and potentially powerful App. I made my first contact today and it took about a minute from a most excellent gentleman (sorry, I forgot his name) who identified a package of Pinto beans. I also have KNFB reader and despite my best efforts over a 20 minute period, it read all kinds of package info, except the type of beans. This fellow solved my issue in less than 5 seconeds once I got a connection. Further, he was able to confirm what I suspect about another unlabelled container (the braill I used fell of) as white beans. I then showed him a view out of my south-facing window and he helped me focus the camera (repositioning" and because it was a two-way conversation, was able to answer all my questions about my southern senic view. Indeed, I would gladly pay for this app. I'd have invited my excellent helper for a beer but can't afford the plane fare from Denver (sandwiches) and Winnipeg (home of the jets.) Indeed, the street crossing thingy was an unfortunate error but must we beat someone to death for perhaps a little overenthusiasm? At present, I'm working on establishing an email list with the blessings of BeMyEyes for both volunteers and users. The spotlighting and educational value for both groups has the potential to be tremendous.