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917:12

Bringing sight to the blind

 
BeMyEyes lets sighted people help the blind remotely, using their smartphones. With 170,000 volunteers, it's been an unexpected and runaway success

Like a comet blazing across a dark sky, a new Danish app is brightening people’s lives.

BeMyEyes allows the visually impaired to see in situations when they are normally without help, by connecting them with sighted users over their devices camera.

Volunteers essentially lend their eyes to the blind, to help them complete tasks. The volunteer can read instructions on food packets, or sell by dates, and communicate it back to the visually impaired user over the device’s microphone.

After three years of development and a 1.8 million kroner grant from the Velux foundation, the app launched earlier this year and was immediately popular. Almost 170,000 sighted people have so far signed up to help over 16,000 blind. The app has connected them on over 57,000 occassions.

“It’s so fantastic,” says BeMyEyes vice president, Line Dybdahl. “We didn’t expect to go so viral like this. It is just amazing and fantastic. We can see App being used.” Also, Line revealed that the app makes an impact not only for visually impaired users: “We receive so much feedback from seeing people too because of an opportunity to help for someone just while sitting at the office.”

Most innovative
BeMyEyes was born when a team of developers met at the Aarhus Startup Weekend in 2011 and won ‘most innovative idea’ (left). Now a non-profit organisation, it is run by 15 dedicated volunteers who believe in the power of ideas that are worth more than money – though Dybdahl promises that the team will constantly develop the app to ensure it helps the most possible number of people.

It is a great example of a non-profitable startup where the great idea is more important than the money. Despite that, even being a non-profit organization it still has such ambitions as “to improve the app as much as possible and to help to as many people as possible.

At the moment the team is working on translating the app into more languages, though it is currently available in 80. And while it is only available through iTunes to Apple customers, an Android version is in the works.

To download the app and sign up, find it on the iTunes store here. M

News, Tech

By Greta Galginaite

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