Be My Eyes – Transforming Lives

I found myself going down the rabbit hole of the internet, and while most occasions this would result in lost time and maybe even a few lost brain cells. This time, I am so glad I did. I discovered by far the best mobile app ever, way better then Tik Tok, Spotify and even beating the gratification of an Instagram likes. I came across, Be My Eyes.

Be My Eyes, is a free app that connects blind and low-vision people with sighted volunteers for visual assistance through a live video call. I signed up immediately and said why didn’t I think of that. I joined a community of over 5 million volunteer assisting over 300,000 people in over 180 languages.

So how does this all work? Through a live video call ( basically a FaceTime) volunteers interact directly and communicate with a blind or low vision person to solve a problem. This could be anything from checking expiration dates, distinguishing colors, reading instructions or navigating new surroundings. I think we need to appreciate the “buy-in” here. This app would be nothing more than idea if there wasn’t “buy-in” from both the volunteers and visually impaired users. I believe the main reason the “buy-in” exists is because the ease of use and convenience of the app. While the app isn’t terribly complicated, it applies video technology in a new innovative way.

Here is a video where you can see it all in action!

I have now answered about 6-7 or calls. I have read emails, distinguish between medicines, helped determine the color of t-shirts and even met a nice golden retriever dog. While I like to think I made someone’s day a little bit easier what they have done for me is so much more. It’s a bit hard to explain, but I encourage you to sign up and try it. You’ll get it. The moment my phone rings with a Be My Eyes call I rush to answer it. I truly get a little bummed if another volunteer beats me to it.

Now on to the business school stuff. As I think about Be My Eyes I can’t help but think platform business model. DEFINITION: a business model that creates value by facilitating exchanges between two or more interdependent groups. Platform business models, a B school favorite, have been around for a while but they are certainly amplified by the use of technology. Think Uber, AirBnB and Etsy to name a few. While it is pretty obvious the benefit that the blind and visually impaired users receive you may wonder who some of the other players are and what benefit they receive. Here is where you have to trust me, the feeling you get when you help out someone in the Be My Eyes community is so gratifying. Even though it’s the simplest of task, you and some video technology have allowed somebody to go about their day. Simply put, you have received value because of your values. Okay props to me that was creative…

At this point if you haven’t signed up to volunteer, I think you might be heartless… And no this isn’t a paid post, I just think you really should sign up. But more importantly this has me wondering how else we can use the platform business model coupled with technology to help better the world? What if we volunteered to read to and tutor school children? How about volunteering to “visit” and speak with the elderly. Really, the possibilities are endless. Digital technology can be used for a good to create a more connected, kinder and accessible society.

“It’s my hope that by helping each other as an online community, Be My Eyes will make a big difference in the everyday lives of blind people all over the world.” – Hans Jørgen Wiberg, Founder of Be My Eyes

As of recent, there is another group of members apart of the Be My Eyes community. This includes an ever growing group of corporate partners like Microsoft, Google, Proctor and Gamble and even Barilla (the pasta people). Partnerships with these companies allows the Be My Eyes mission of free eyesight to be possible. It’s also good for their business. For example, Google has had some amazing results with their Be My Eyes partnership. Google integrated Be My Eyes into their disability support desk and saw an immediate impact. Overall, Be My Eyes accounted for…

33%
of Google Disability Support’s total call volume

68%
shorter average handle time compared to phone

90%
customer satisfaction rating

“It’s been incredible to know we are connecting with the blind and low vision community on a daily basis. Not only do people love knowing they can reach us easily through the Be My Eyes app, but it’s thrilling to see how much easier it is to support them via video.” Kyndra LoCoco, Accessibility Partner & Community Programs Manager, Google

As for Barilla, one of Be My Eyes newest partners, there’s the “pasta professionals” who help guide users trying to cook the perfect al dente pasta or those trying to find a new and exciting recipe.

By this point, I think you understand why Be My Eyes is the best app ever. I encourage everyone to step up and sign up. I truly believe that Be My Eyes with its technology and platform has been transformative for the blind and visually impaired. If you come across others making a difference through technology send it my way, I’d love to learn about their great and important work.

Links:

https://www.applicoinc.com/blog/what-is-a-platform-business-model/

https://www.bemyeyes.com/specialized-help

7 comments

  1. This post is so incredibly inspiring! This really made me think of better ways we can use technology to help others around the globe, and this is very inspiring as an app like this that connects over 300k users with 5m volunteers all around the globe is exactly what we need. This type of community is heartwarming and I just downloaded the app!

  2. I had not heard of this platform, so thank you for bringing it to my attention! I also appreciate how you connected it to the idea of platforms. We’ve discussed obstacles for digital transformation that go beyond the technical side, moving into organizational structure, culture, and other social factors. I wonder if a platform providing opportunities to connect and socialize may help overcome these hurdles? At the same time, can a platform create new obstacles for digital transformation?

  3. This is awesome!!!! If anyone is interested, I’ve actually used a similar app called BeSpecular that helps blind people, but not by video call. Instead, they send audio messages and/or photos of something, and you essentially describe it back to them via audio or text. The app had kind of gone dry and I was wondering why. I am going to join this asap, thanks!

  4. This gives me a good idea for an app geared towards Dementia/Alzheimer’s. Have the app list or recite key reminders about an individual’s life/goings on, possibly in their own voice. These sorts of things will not just make life easier for those with disability but also create more visibility for them in society.

  5. Thank you for bringing our attention to this. I think this app will inspire many hours of day dreaming for me on how else this business model could be applied. I would be curious to know what QA measures are in place for all parties involved with this service.

  6. Cool service. We’ve had a number of students dig into how tech enables accessibility over the years. I find it to be a fascinating topic.

  7. This was a really insightful blog. I have had the app for about 3 years, but saw a big surge of users 2 years ago after a viral post on reddit caused over 50k in signups over a few hours. Regarding other uses of technology, another potential use case involving the eyesight would be NFC/RFD communications on doors, so that as you walk by then, it would trigger your phone to call out “Room 415” or “Blue line Train”, or it could be placed on street signs that have chips inside that would call out the intersection names. I wonder if this will ever come to fruition.

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