Be My Eyes: App Review

woman using a cell phone

Be My Eyes is a free app that connects blind or low-vision users to sighted volunteers who offer visual assistance in real-time using video conferencing technology. The app is designed to be straightforward in its functionality, as well as being easily accessible for low or no-vision users.

When starting the app for the first time, you choose between being a helper or the helped. In this e-bulletin, we’re going to look at the app from the perspective of the “helped”. A blind or visually impaired person would use this mode. There are graphics here, but what matters the most is what is triggered when you touch areas on the screen. The corners trigger sub-panels. The rest of the screen is used for calling for help. The two main panels are “Home” and “Stories”. The buttons for these are located at the bottom of the screen. “Home” is located on the left and “Stories” is on the right. The touch detection extends to the corners of the screen, so you will not struggle to locate these main panels. At the top left and right of these main panels are sub-panels. To the upper right of “Home” is “Settings”. On the upper left of “Stories” is “About”.

To summon aid, touch and lift your finger in this large space. When you first request help, you will be asked to allow the app to use your camera, LED flash and microphone. When the assistance starts, you will hear the voice of your helper, and they will be able to hear you and see through the back camera. They may also turn the LED off and on for better light. It is up to the verbal skill of the helper to guide you to complete your requested goal. When the task is completed, you or your helper can disconnect by taping on the screen again and verifying your request to end assistance.

Here are some examples of tasks that might require assistance:

  • Sorting mail
  • Choosing between colors
  • Using crosswalks
  • Reading labels on medication
  • Reading labels on jars and cans
  • Finding the cat
  • Navigating a grocery store
  • Reading money
  • Using a bank machine
  • Walking around the city with minimum cane use
  • Painting a picture
  • Navigating the TV remote

The Breakdown

Pros:

  • The app is available on iOS and Android
  • The app is easy on resources and only 76.4MB in size.
  • The app makes full use of voiceover on iOS and text-to-speech on Android.
  • You are able to freeze the video at any time to see things more clearly.
  • You effectively highjack someone’s vision and voice for your own personal use.
  • Works great on Wi-Fi at home and on Cellular data when out and about.
  • Helpful when looking for an unbiased person to help you make decisions

Cons:

  • Because the App uses video and audio, data usage outside the home can be an issue for those with lower data plans. However, service providers supplement data offerings if you can prove that you are a person living with blindness or low vision.
  • You cannot choose a particular assistant.
  • The app is to be used at your own risk, i.e., you are depending on “helpers” to navigate the world around you

Final thoughts

I can honestly say my experience with the app was a pleasant one. People were genuinely kind, even though I often push the limits of what would be considered normal use scenarios. Helping others was easy and fun. The better your communication skills, the faster you will be in and out of interactions with others, allowing you to help even more people if you are available to serve. The interface is easy to navigate and use with or without sight. I have not encountered any bugs or misinterpreted taps or swipe commands. If you need assistance now and sight in a flash, you could do far worse then Be My Eyes.