Helping the blind see with a new app

Published: May. 21, 2015 at 2:29 AM CDT|Updated: Nov. 19, 2015 at 10:04 PM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - If you are looking for some way to volunteer and give back to the community, here's a great idea even if you don't have a lot of time or transportation.

You don't even need to leave your house to make a huge difference in someone else's life.

All you need is a smart phone and a clever new app that allows you to be the "eyes" for someone else who is blind.

The new app is called "Be My Eyes." It allows you to see for someone else who can't.

It's based on the same technology that allows us to bring you live video of a storm that is many miles away. You may remember two years ago when Meteorologist Cary Allen was on the air and a storm chaser interrupted his weather with live video of a tornado touching down near Sundown.

Many of us have experienced the same technology with video calling.

We caught Erik Breon, our news director in Lubbock looking in on his Mom in Seattle with a video call to make sure she was taking her medicine.

So, just as you can see the person you have called on the phone... and storm chasers can show us a tornado they are watching in another county, this new app allows you to narrate live action for someone who can not see, perhaps in a situation that could be thousands of miles away.

It is a new convenience that Roseanne has already learned to appreciate.

Roseanne is blind but she is getting help from a volunteer who is looking at live video from Roseanne's smart phone. That person on the other end of the line is helping Roseanne understand which product she wants to pull from a store shelf.

Roseanne doesn't know the other person, only that her name is Katie.

We know that Katie is someone who signed up to be a "helper" in a growing data base of volunteers using this new app to help the blind.

"Be My Eyes" is the brain child of Hans Hilberg in Denmark. He explains, "It makes a video connection between a blind person's iPhone and a sighted person's iPhone so that blind people can lend someone eyes for a short moment."

Roseanne agrees, "Having your own personal guide kind of, it's like having somebody that's with you and only with you walking along and telling you."

Even a quick question about an expiration date can be a huge relief in helping someone who is blind and perhaps worried about drinking milk that may be unsafe.

Hilberg says volunteers don't have to make themselves avaialble all the time to answer questions

Instead, he says, "The server picks a random volunteer, speaking the same language. Then, if the volunteer has the time to help they will be connected. If not, after 10 seconds we will call another volunteer until someone answers the call.'

Roseann says this new app gives her new independence and it allows her to connect with people.

Even if she can't see them or know them, she says it's a good feeling to know there are many good Samaritans out there who are anxious to lend an eye.

Note: Already 19,000 have signed up for this app in need of vision assistance.

Also, 219 thousand from many different countries have signed up to be a "helper".

If you would like to learn more, go to your app store and search for "Be My Eyes".

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