Use your smartphone to lend your eyes to blind people: this is the concept behind an innovative new app created in Denmark.
Be My Eyes helps blind people cope better with everyday tasks by connecting them to sighted volunteers through a video connection on their phones.
Creator Hans Jørgen Wiberg, who is visually impaired himself, told Salt that he came up with idea when he saw blind friends using video calls to friends and family for help; checking their socks match, for example, or reading the instructions on cosmetics bottles.
Wiberg presented his idea at TEDx Copenhagen and explained: “Imagine you’re blind, you’re standing in your kitchen cooking dinner. The recipe says add a can of coconut milk and on the shelf there are 3 cans. You know that only one of them is coconut milk, what do you do?”
The person with the visual impairment opens the app to find a Be Me Eyes volunteer, and the pair then use the live video connection to make sure that coconut milk, not kidney beans, goes into the curry.
Having launched in January, Be My Eyes is already a success: around 20,000 blind people have downloaded the app, as well as 228,000 sighted, in 80 languages.
Enthusiasm from sighted volunteers for Be My Eyes has been such that they far outnumber the amount of visually impaired people who have downloaded the app.
The Be My Eyes creator told Salt that he’d received around 11,000 emails since the launch, and many of these were from disappointed helpers who haven’t been able to volunteer due to the imbalance in numbers.
“This is a good problem to have,” said Wiberg. He is in the process of contacting organisations and charities from around the world to spread awareness of the app, so more visually impaired people can benefit from the project.
Wiberg believes his non-profit organisation is helping to push a new form of easy and convenient volunteering – ‘microvolunteering’.
He said: “You can sign up for something that you don’t have to do at a certain time. If you’re busy you can just ignore the call and someone else will do it. The calls are just three or four minutes, and you can just lie on the sofa and do something good.
“Most people do want to do something good but they don’t have time.”
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