New app helps blind and partially sight people to ‘see’

February 2015 – New app helps blind and partially sight people to ‘see’

A new app which connects people who are blind or visually impaired with sighted volunteers from around the world has been released.

Called Be My Eyes, the app connects blind users with a sighted ‘helper’ via video chat, providing them with the opportunity to ask them questions when undertaking tasks which require ‘normal’ vision. This could be anything from checking the expiry date on a product or locating an item on a shelf to reading a street sign.

The app was created by Danish founder, Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who began losing his vision at the age of 25.

While a test version has been available in Denmark for a few months, and has been well received by the blind community, it was only released in the UK and other countries last week (January 15). Since its launch, there have been more than 10,100 instances of help. Almost 64,000 sighted people have signed up to the app as volunteers, while over 4,850 blind people have registered. These figures were correct as OT went to press on Tuesday (January 20).

Speaking about the app, Mr Wiberg said: “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.”

He added: “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.”

The app works by a blind or partially sighted person requesting assistance via the Be My Eyes app. The sighted volunteer then receives a notification for ‘help’, before a live video connection is established. The visually impaired user is then required to point the phone’s camera at the scene which they need help deciphering and asks the sighted user a question.

Referring to the app, a spokesperson for the RNIB told OT: “As a charity which supports blind and partially sighted people to live full and independent lives, we welcome any new technology which can help them to do that.

“We’re particularly supportive of initiatives which find new ways to help people with sight loss complete everyday tasks such as cooking, shopping and filling in forms.”

Be My Eyes is free to download at bit.ly/1INRo2V. While the app is currently only available to people using an iPhone 4s or above, the company has confirmed that an Android version is in the pipeline.

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