We often say that our favorite mobile app of the moment has truly changed our lives. I'm sure the thought "How did I ever live without X?" has crossed your mind before.
However, Be My Eyes is a new mobile app that could really revolutionize how the visually impaired live. The app connects those with sight to the blind so that they can, well, be their eyes.
All you have to do is download the app and then select whether you are sighted or blind. If you're a volunteer wanting to help someone see, you will then receive a notification when someone needs help. If you're in need of assistance, the app takes you to a screen where you have the option of connecting with the first volunteer available. Once two people are connected, they communicate over a live mobile video stream that operates a lot like FaceTime on iOS devices, for which the app is currently only available.
Be My Eyes, which was invented by Hans Jørgen Wiberg who is visually impaired, is intended to be used for quick assistance rather than long-term communication. A video of the app in action shows some possible uses might be reading the expiration date on a carton of milk or describing a photo on a computer screen.
However, you may be wondering how people who are visually impaired would be able to use the app at all if they can't see. Accessibility features have been available on the iPhone since the 3GS came out in 2009, and the majority of blind smartphone users have iPhones, according to the app's co-founder Thelle Kristensen, as reported by Fast Company. These features include changing the appearance of text to VoiceOver, which speaks the items on the screen to the user. Be My Eyes also automatically activates reading the text on the screen for users once they tell the app they are blind.
While everyone hopes that people use this app for its intended purpose, in this day and age, we all know that is not always the case. In order to prevent people from misusing the app, you can rate or report the helper or user at the end of the session, and they will then be banned from the app if they're abusing it. Successfully helping someone earns volunteers points, which contribute to their rating to designate them as the best helpers in the network.
Ah, using technology to help people help people. It is a beautiful thing.