Copenhagen's Be My Eyes Connects Blind And Sighted Through iPhone App

    Alright, everyone get out your wallets – because after writing about plenty of apps that make some minor inconvenience in life slightly less inconvenient, I’m excited to write about a new app that may have some real-world impact. Copenhagen-based non-profit startup Be My Eyes is helping connect sighted volunteers with the blind community through video and voice over a smartphone app, and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to help implement their idea.

    So if a blind user needs help checking what the expiration date is on a can, for example, they can load up the app and call out to the network of sighted volunteers. This opens up a live video stream where volunteers can “be the blind person’s eyes” to respond to questions and describe what they see. That’s awesome.

    The original team met up at Startup Weekend Aarhus 2012, and has since grown to a team of 12 developers and business people, of whom 5 are visually impaired. They’ve now thrown their pitch up on Indygogo, and have already raised $2,316 of their $10,000 goal. They only have 17 days left, so if it sounds interesting to you, head on over to their page.

    They write about the funding:

    We have a great volunteer team working on the project and have produced a working prototype, but in order to roll out of the app more development is needed and the main part of money will be spend directly on adding more development resources to the team. A smaller part of the funds will to towards user-testing, marketing and hosting/server costs. Our goal will enable us to finish the basic features of our app for the iPhone and bring it into the hands of blind and sighted alike.

    For more info, check out their video.

    We’ve written about a Helsinki-based app helping blind people just this past winter – Blindsquare – which mashes up location information from Foursquare to help blind people get around. In my ignorance, I would have thought the iPhone would be an awful tool for the visually impaired, given that it a flat screen gives you little tactile feedback. However, I’ve become more and more impressed with Apple’s accessibility features and entrepreneurs’ ideas how to use the platform.