Us­ing the latest tech to help the blind see with a stranger’s eyes

App al­lows sighted vol­un­teers to help blind peo­ple all over the world, just by us­ing their smart­phones


The free iPhone app Be My Eyes con­nects blind users with sighted vol­un­teers. When a blind user needs help, he ac­cesses the app and Be My Eyes rings up the first avail­able vol­un­teer. The two are con­nected over the blind user’s video cam­era and the sighted user lends her eyes for a task that usu­ally takes just a minute or two, such as check­ing the ex­piry date on food.

It’s a process that app co­founder Hans Jo­er­gen Wiberg refers to as mi­cro-volunteering. “A lot of peo­ple want to do some­thing good but they are busy,” he said. “With this app, they have an op­por­tu­nity to help out if they have time.” Nearly 200,000 sighted users have signed up, with con­nec­tions in 80 dif­fer­ent lan­guages.

Be My Eyes also has 18,000 reg­is­tered blind users. One of them is Copenhagen na­tive Kamila Ry­d­ing, who said that she typ­i­cally uses the app once or twice a week, pri­mar­ily for help in iden­ti­fy­ing house­hold goods.

She said that Be My Eyes keeps her from feel­ing like a bur­den to her fam­ily and friends. “I like to have a friend be a friend and not a helper.”

But blind peo­ple aren’t the only ben­e­fi­cia­ries; vol­un­teers also have much to gain. One sighted user posted on Face­book, “This is the first app that has ever af­fected me on such an emo­tional level ... I feel like I’m get­ting more out of this app than the per­son who called me.”

Emil Jupin and Thelle Kristensen

Be My Eyes — an app that con­nects blind peo­ple with vol­un­teer helpers from around the world via live video chat.

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