An eye-opening app produced by a non-profit startup in Copenhagen hopes to change life for people who are visually impaired.
Backed by the Danish Blind Society, the Velux Foundations, and Danish software studio Robocat, Be My Eyes connects sighted people with blind people over smartphone video calls.
The app works by allowing a person with impaired vision to use direct video to reach a volunteer with sight. The app lets volunteers “see” for the blind person with the smartphone’s live video function. Be My Eyes can help tasks, like reading labels or finding the right can on a shelf, become easier.
Be My Eyes was envisioned by 50-year-old Hans Jorgen Wiberg, a Danish furniture craftsman who began losing his vision at age 25. Be My Eyes was presented by a team, including Wiberg, at 2012’s Startup Weekend in Denmark and won a prize for most innovative idea.
“The app makes it possible to get help at times where it might be inconvenient to get help from neighbors or friends, and you don’t have to go apologetically and ask for help,” John Heilbrunn, vice chairman of The Danish Association of the Blind, said in a press release. After trying a test version of the app, the Danish blind community supports the app.
Be My Eyes creates a “network of eyes,” as people with smartphones can volunteer and assist when they have time. The app allows users to earn points and level up once they assist more people. The main page of the app gives statistics on the number of blind and sighted users, as well as how many times people have been helped that day.
“It is flexible, takes only a few minutes to help, and the app is therefore a good opportunity for the busy, modern individual with the energy to help others,” creator Hans Jorgen Wiberg said in a press release.
The virtual-assistance component of Be My Eyes helps people who are blind keep their independence because they are still able to complete tasks on their own while just “borrowing” the eyes of a volunteer with sight. The app focuses more on working together than volunteers doing something completely for someone else. This attitude—that people can work together to solve tasks, and that people who are blind can still do things on their own—is what will make a difference.
Now, Be My Eyes is available for free in the AppStore. It’s currently available for iPhone 4s and newer, but the creators plan to create an Android version. Since Be My Eyes is a non-profit, it needs donations and volunteers to sustain. Volunteers are invited to translate the app into different languages and are encouraged to use the open source code on Github to bring the app to different platforms.