Their latest work is a collaboration with a non-profit organisation called Be My Eyes to help visually impaired people to see using their iPhones. The idea is straightforward; it’s like borrowing for a minute the eyes of a volunteer who is also using the app. Be My Eyes places an anonymous video call with a random sighted helper willing to help a blind person in need. Users sign up to the service as either sighted or blind and are paired automatically based on their language and availability.
How useful it this? If you are not in the close circle of a blind person, which is my case, I guess is difficult to relate to the everyday challenges blind people face. Small things like ringing the right door buzzer, directions in the street, or checking the label of packaged food can be made much easier with the help of Be My Eyes. The key, though, is that instead of relying on the people around you, you get help from strangers without the feeling you are always bugging them.
According to the app inventor Hans Jørgen Wiberg, there is some stigma associated with asking all the time for help:
“If I only had a pair of eyes once or twice a day I could do a whole lot more on my on and I wouldn’t have to ask friends and family for help […] My blind friends are already using FaceTime or Skype with their iPhones, but they still have to call their friends and family”
In addition to the feeling of doing something good, each volunteer gains kudos in the community and levels up, making the experience something more social than one to one. This is not the first time we see video support — remember those Kindle Fire reps on video? This time the concept is novel, serves a genuine cause and promotes volunteering in a way I haven’t seen before on the App Store. The service comes with strict guidelines on the terms and conditions on what is expected and the things that are not tolerable, although for once, I think the internet will be able to come up with something good.
There is a novelty aspect to it and perhaps that makes it more appealing. I’m happy to see one of my favourite studios involved in such a cool project and I’m sure they also enjoyed it. Now it’s time to sign up as a volunteer and help out. First step? Downloading Be My Eyes.