Be My Eyes Delivers Sight to People with Visual Impairments Using Programmable Video
Time to read: 3 minutes
When was the last time you visited the grocery store, picked up a product, and turned it around to review the ingredients? Stop and imagine if you were unable to read the description. Or consider if you took an at-home pregnancy test, but were unable to view the results.
From daily tasks to pivotal life moments, many people take their sight for granted. Yet 253 million people around the world have a visual impairment that affects their daily activities. Be My Eyes wants to bring sight to blind and low vision people everywhere through the power of communication.
Blindness occurs on a spectrum. Some people can select an item from their pantry, but are unable to read the cooking instructions. Others may struggle to select matching clothing from their closet or differentiate the shampoo and conditioner bottles in the shower.
To manage around visual impairments, many people turn to loved ones for help, but this can present its own challenges. Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, chief commercial officer at Be My Eyes, explains, “Relying on friends and family for everyday tasks can be taxing on relationships. These dependencies prevent people with visual impairments from achieving true independence in their lives.”
So what if everyone had access to an extra set of eyes right when they needed help, so that they didn’t need to rely solely on their close relationships for support? That’s the question Be My Eyes set out to answer.
Be My Eyes is a mobile app for iPhone and Android devices that connects sighted volunteers with blind and low vision users over video chat. In just a few seconds, a user can connect with a volunteer, and by simply pointing their phone camera toward an object, enable the volunteer to describe the situation. “It’s a Twilio-powered community support platform that solves a visually impaired person’s problem in a fraction of the time that it would take via audio,” explains Jensen.
When the app launched it 2015, demand confirmed that Be My Eyes had identified a massive unmet need. “Overnight we had about 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 blind users,” says Butler. “It was immediately apparent that this could be something really valuable.”
With the immediate and dramatic growth in their user base, Be My Eyes’ global scale introduced lags in connection time, a significant problem for users. “When you’re asking for help, a little bit of time can feel like an eternity,” Jensen explains.
Up until this point, Be My Eyes had sourced video connectivity from multiple providers, but determined that Twilio offered faster connections with higher quality. “Twilio was the best option,” says Jensen. “It allowed us to create a super stable connection.” Be My Eyes decided to move all of their traffic to Twilio.
Since migrating to Twilio, Be My Eyes has reduced connection times by more than 50 percent. These time savings are essential to the user experience. “Every second we can shave off wait times means more trust, more engagement, and a stronger bond in our community,” says Jensen. “A 50% reduction in connection time can mean a world of difference for the user.”
Be My Eyes now supports connections between more than 3 million volunteers and 178,000 blind and low vision users. Volunteers are available globally, spanning 150 countries and 185 languages, all with 24 hour access.
Be My Eyes also allows companies to provide free support to blind and low vision users through the new Specialized Help feature in the app. The growing partner list already includes the customer service teams at Google, Microsoft and P&G, who leverage the Be My Eyes technology to enable live video support for their products.
Beyond their impressive scale, the impact that Be My Eyes creates is perhaps best told through the stories their users share about how the technology enables them to do more in their lives. Like the father who can select the right ingredients from the pantry to cook a meal for his family. The teenager who can reorganize her music collection. Or the woman who can get the results of her pregnancy test in private.
Through the shared connections on Be My Eyes, people with visual impairments regain personal independence and volunteers get a window into the experience of blindness. With the scale at which Be My Eyes is operating, these experiences are creating a global community with greater empathy and understanding for people with visual impairments.
To join the Be My Eyes community, download the app at: https://www.bemyeyes.com/download
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