I used an app to help a blind person work her washing machine - on the other side of the world

Business Insider SA
Be My Eyes (Supplied)
  • Be My Eyes is an app that allows you to help blind people with their daily tasks across the world.
  • Volunteers assist users through a live video chat and work together to handle a wide range of tasks.
  • More than two million people across the world use the app.
  • We gave it a try, and helped to get a washing machine started in South America.

An app that allows you to be the "eyes" of a blind person on the other side world now has two millions users. 

Be My Eyes is a free app for all users, no matter how much you use it, and works on both Android and iOS.

It connects people who are blind or have low vision with sighted volunteers. Volunteers assist users through a live video chat and work together to handle a wide range of tasks. 

Using voice activation technology, visually impaired users can open the app and request a volunteer. Be My Eyes then sends out a notification to  volunteers around the world. The first person who is available is connected to the visually impaired user. 

Most visually impaired users need the app for daily tasks: checking the expiry date on a bottle of fruit juice, finding a tie that doesn’t clash with a suit, or just checking whether a dinner is properly cooked. 

You don’t need to have the app open or running in the background to receive calls. As long as you are logged in, you can receive calls in your daytime hours.

We gave it a try and it was an exhilarating experience.

The app sends out a “Someone needs your help” alert, and I answered the call. Immediately, the app opened up onto a live video feed. On my screen I saw a woman, who identified herself as being "from South America" (participants can choose to remain anonymous). She spoke English, which was the language option that I selected.

She said she needed to do some laundry, and asked whether I could check that the washing machines settings are correct. Turning her cellphone towards the washing machine I was able to tell her which buttons to push and dials to adjust to get the correct setting for her laundry.

The exchange lasted a minute.

Be My Eyes is now available in 150 countries in more than 180 different languages. Some 90% of calls are answered within 30 seconds and the short waiting time is a game changer for blind users.

Using the app I can see why there are sixteen times more sighted volunteers than visually impaired users, it is now so easy to make a small difference in someone’s life. The app is user friendly and walks you through the basics step by step. If you are a volunteer, there is even a demo video on how to offer help.

Hans Jørgen Wiberg, inventor and founder of Be My Eyes, hopes to foster independent living for visually impaired users like himself. 

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