Be My Eyes: lend your eyes to the blind with the help of smartphone cameras

by Gannon Burgett

posted Thursday, January 15, 2015 at 1:30 PM EST


Be My Eyes might be one of the most incredible uses of camera technology and crowdsourcing we’ve ever come across. Created in partnership with iOS development team Robocat, Be My Eyes is an application that connects blind people with volunteer helpers from around the world. Using video chat, the volunteer can help the blind individual with a task that would otherwise be difficult or impossible.

As the video below shows, the process is effortless on behalf of both parties. As a volunteer, you simply download the app and sign up. Once set up, you will be sent a notification when a request is sent out. You can either accept the request or decline it if you’re busy, in which case the request will be sent to another volunteer.

The idea seems so obvious in retrospect, but it’s these things that so often get overlooked in a world accustomed only to conventional uses of technology. Cameras are most often used to capture images, but their utility can go far beyond, especially in an age as connected as our own. Be My Eyes perfectly demonstrate that, leading the way for many other, similar efforts to help those in need using the camera technology we literally carry around in our pockets.

As of now, just over 4,000 volunteers are signed up, outnumbering the 530 blind users roughly 8-to–1. Over 1,200 blind people have been helped in the short amount of time this app has been live. As the days come and go these numbers are sure to grow.

If you’d like to be a part of this service, head on over to the Be My Eyes website and download the free app to become a volunteer. If you know someone who is visually impaired and could benefit from Be My Eyes, set them up with the service and spread the word. It might be a small, simple gesture, but it’s these gestures that make the world go ‘round.

Currently, the app is only available for iOS, but an Android version is in the works. You can sign up to be notified when the Android version is released on the Be My Eyes website.