By Sal Kapadia
Innovations in technology are attractive to most aspiring people. Whether it be hardware, software, appliances, or books on how to program code, there is a constant need of development. Luckily, we have numerous tech events throughout the U.S. each year such as the Worldwide Developers Conference, Interop, Electronic Entertainment Expo, and the recent 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas last month. This year, CES focused primarily on emerging technologies in many sectors including a continued interest in display technology and the mobile phone market. Events like these are geared towards video bloggers, reviewer, and gain a ton of media attention throughout the web. Don’t be mistaken, though. Tech development is on the rise at the global level. Organizations from around the world gain popularity thanks to social media, and a prime example of that is the newly released Danish application for iOS, “BeMyEyes.” When I heard about this from my coworker, Ally, I went straight to the App Store.
Released on the market on January 15th, this application is aimed to bridge the sighted community with those who are visually impaired. As a non-profit, the strategy is to crowdsource and have direct community involvement with those in need of assistance. Demand for applications like this has never been higher, and with almost 2 billion smartphone users in the world, the guys at BeMyEyes can rest assured that someone will want to help. That someone turned into thousands within hours of launch, and the momentum became so strong that the team was forced to upgrade their servers to keep up with demand. As of right now, the number of sighted participants stands at 88,438 with 6,688 blind registered, and 15,997 people helped. That. Is. Astounding!
Free to download at the moment, the user launches the App Store on an iPhone and downloads the app, “BeMyEyes.” Launch the app and select whether you are sighted or blind, and fill out basic information to get rolling, including language preferences. If you are blind, you can call for help anytime and be connected to a random sighted user through video conferencing. If you are sighted, close out of the app and await for your service. Simple, and easy!
So, I followed my own instructions last week. A few hours after registering, my phone starts to buzz, “Ali needs your assistance. Slide or tap to help.” Of course, I’m very excited now that I have been connected with somebody. It turns out that the gentleman was from Iraq. I was blown away that the servers were able to route through Iraq’s network and Denmark’s into my phone. We converse for a minute, he seemed a very pleasant man, and he asks me if I understand computers at all. Being the IT guy at LAB, I jumped up and down and feel a thrill run up my spine. Geek speak aside, I directed him for a half hour and was able to help his computer boot without a blue screen. The likelihood that he would have reached me was much less than 1%. It felt great. Assuming it would have taken him weeks to lend his computer to a technician and receive a working PC in return, I fell in love with the potential of this app.
And since then, I wait for users of “BeMyEyes” to contact me for help. Most of the time, the video connection is strong and that helps to transmit the image clearly. Innovations like this app prove that we do have an obligation to lending our eyes whenever we can. As citizens of a free nation, we can all spread the word and try to aid internationally if possible. Describe the photo of her daughter, help them pick out a can of soup, tell them which tie looks better with their suit. It will make your day and certainly make theirs. I guarantee it.