Be My Eyes hopes that by pairing volunteer readers with sight-impaired individuals, assistance is just a video chat away.
Danish non-profit Be My Eyes has launched an iOs app that connects the blind community with the sighted, allowing them to navigate the world with a little added help. Created by Hans Jørgen Wiberg, Be My Eyes uses the video function on iPhones to provide "eyes" for its over 4,000 visually impaired users.
It works like this: One of the more than 55,000 sighted app users gets a notification on his or her iPhone 4s (or newer) alerting them that a blind user needs assistance. If they're available, they accept the request and are connected via the Be My Eyes app. The blind user points the back facing camera towards the scene they need help deciphering, asks the sighted user if the milk they're holding is expired, which shelf the shirt they're looking for is on etc., and after a little chatting painlessly move on with their day. If for some reason the two don't hit it off, there is a helpful block feature.
Available in the app store since January 15, Be My Eyes was conceived and presented by Wiberg at a Startup Weekend event in Denmark in April 2012. Upon seeing the presentation, a team of volunteers rallied around the concept and helped develop the innovative tool. While Be My Eyes has received funding and backing from the Danish Blind Society, the Velux Foundation and the software development studio Robocat, the organization is still figuring out its business model. They are currently accepting donations and hope to settle on a new model by the time their initial funding runs out this fall. The app is also open source, so those interested can help turn it into something even better as well as assist in translating it into other languages.
"It's my hope that by helping each other as an online community, Be My Eyes will make a big difference in the everyday lives of blind people all over the world," said Wiberg.