Though the blind are highly self-sufficient, sometimes they need help with certain tasks, like reading an unfamiliar product label. With Be My Eyes, they can now call on a deep network of volunteers whenever they need something.
Developed in Denmark, the app links up the visually-impaired and full-sighted via video chat. And it already has a big following. Launched in mid-January, Be My Eyes has more than 100,000 users at the time of writing, including 97,000 sighted people and almost 8,000 blind.
The community has helped out with nearly 10,000 tasks so far, mostly for simple things like reading a food expiration date, identifying keys on a keyboard, or finding the settings on an oven.
“It’s very fun and heart-warming for us to see people getting helped across all these countries,” says Thelle Kristensen, who leads the non-profit behind the app. The interface is available in 23 languages; about 65% of the helpers are English-speakers, with Danish, French and German speakers making up the next largest groups.
Kristensen puts the response down to ease-of-use. The blind just need to tap a button to be connected to a volunteer. Helpers choose to take a call or not, depending on how busy they are. And, it’s free for everyone.
“I think it’s such an awesome feeling to help out like this. You can also really see the difference that you are making. It’s very concrete,” Kristensen says.
The original idea came from Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a Danish inventor who himself is visually-impaired. Wiberg took the concept to a Startup Weekend event in Aarhus, Denmark’s second city, where he met Kristensen. It took an international team two and half years to actually bring the app to market.
“The fire in our belly was to make a worldwide network of volunteers to help out and it’s been great to see the reaction with ten times as many sighted as blind people,” Kristensen says.
Download it here.