Crowdsourcing sight for the blind
Philip Ellison 22 January, 2015 at 10:01
There is now an iPhone app which helps visually impaired individuals to overcome the myriad challenges that they face on a daily basis, by connecting them with sighted people who “lend their eyes”. Volunteers download the Be My Eyes app, and are then alerted when someone needs help in a task, which could be anything from choosing the right item in a shop, to setting up their DVD player, to checking the expiry date on food. They then talk the user through that task, describing their surroundings via video chat.
Be My Eyes was first pitched at Startup Weekend by visually impaired entrepreneur and TEDx speaker Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who then partnered with Thelle Kristensen to create a “network of eyes” that can “make a big difference in the everyday lives of blind people all over the world.” And while it’s early days, Be My Eyes certainly seems to appeal to the inner philanthropist in people; over 71,000 seeing volunteers have signed up to the service since it launched, and at the time of writing this, more than 11,700 people have been helped.
Blogger Sundi Rose-Holt has described Be My Eyes simply as “an app for human kindness.” The company is entirely non-profit, and has received funding from the Danish Blind Society and software developers Robocat.
Be My Eyes is just one example of the many innovative ways technology is being used to aid the visually impaired. Earlier this month, Intel CEO Brian Krzanich demonstrated how incorporating RealSense tech into smart garments can inform blind people when they are being approached.
Strides are also being made in smart eyewear; last year a woman suffering from a degenerative eye condition was able to “relearn what the world looks like” with the help of the eSight device, and Google Glass has also been proven to help blind and partially sighted consumers to live more independently.