[accesscomp] FW: A Review of the Be My Eyes Remote Sighted Helper App for Apple iOS, Dan's tip for February 16 2015

  • From: "Robert Acosta" <boacosta@xxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "tektalk discussion" <tektalkdiscussion@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2015 12:31:47 -0800

                

 

Robert Acosta, President

Helping Hands for the Blind

(818) 998-0044

www.helpinghands4theblind.org

 

From: dan Thompson [mailto:dthompson5@xxxxxxxxx] 
Sent: Monday, February 16, 2015 11:05 AM
To: dan Thompson
Subject: A Review of the Be My Eyes Remote Sighted Helper App for Apple iOS,
Dan's tip for February 16 2015

 

 

I personally have used this service severaltimes over the last few weeks.
The helpers are patient, kind and quite prompt picking up on their end.
What's really awesome  is that the service is free.  

 

A Review of the Be My Eyes Remote Sighted Helper App for Apple iOS

Bill Holton

Contributer to AFB'S Access world Technology Magazine February 2015

Source link is below 

 <http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw160202>
http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw160202

 

Many iPhone users with visual impairments use a video FaceTime or Skype call
with a friend for a brief session of sighted help—to find a hotel room door,
for instance, or to help set the controls on a washer or dryer. But what if
your friends or family members are not available when you need assistance?
Or maybe you call the same person again and again, and you worry you might
be overstaying your welcome?

Mobile identification and text recognition apps such as TapTapSee, Talking
Goggles, and the KNFB Reader can take up a lot of the slack, but there are
times when you really do need a working pair of eyeballs. Now, thanks to a
new iOS app called
<https://itunes.apple.com/app/be-my-eyes-helping-blind-see/id905177575?mt=8>
Be My Eyes, sighted help is just a tap away.

How Be My Eyes Works

Be My Eyes pairs sighted volunteers with visually impaired individuals who
would appreciate a bit of remote assistance. The app is free both to
download and to use.

For visually impaired users, the app could not be simpler to use. Most of
the screen is taken up by a single control to connect you to the first
available helper. Double tap this button and your device will announce,
"Creating connection request." A few seconds later a sort of electronic ring
tone begins to play, and soon you are connected to a sighted volunteer
through a two-way audio and one-way video connection using the
<https://tokbox.com/> opentok/tokbox video platform.

Read more about this platform here:

 <https://tokbox.com/> https://tokbox.com/

 

The volunteer can view your environment through the higher-resolution
rear-facing camera. With a connection established, you can converse with the
volunteer, introduce yourself (if you like), and ask for help with whatever
identification task is at hand. You can disconnect at any time.

When you first open the app you are asked if you need assistance or wish to
provide it. In either case you are required to register. You can do this
using your Facebook credentials, or you can create a Be My Eyes account with
your name, e-mail address and the password of your choice. More about this
later.

If you register as a helper, you merely need to leave the app running in the
background. When it's your turn to offer assistance, the app will alert you.
If you don't respond within 10 seconds or so, the app servers will move onto
the next person in the queue and alert them. "At first we tried pinging ten
people at once, so people requesting assistance would not have to wait so
long for a response, but we started getting e-mails from volunteers who were
frustrated because they wanted to help, but were not the first to respond,"
says Hans Jørgen Wiberg, the service's founder.

Turning an Idea into a Service

Like many of us, after a few remote FaceTime sessions, Wiberg had the idea
that we could more easily obtain sighted help if there were only some way to
tap into a wider network than just our friends and family. Unlike most of
us, however, Wiberg put action to thought, and he isn't even a programmer.
Wiberg, who lives in Copenhagen, Denmark, is a part-time upholsterer and
Regional Chairman of the  <https://blind.dk/> Danish Association of the
Blind.

 <https://blind.dk/> https://blind.dk/

 

Wiberg took his idea to a local startup meeting, where people come together
to exchange and refine ideas for new businesses and services. There he
teamed up with seven others, none of whom were programmers. They formalized
their idea and began searching for grant money.

With just a few thousand donated Danish Krone, the group hired outside
developers to create an iOS app. They released it in the Danish App Store in
November of 2014, and beta tested it with just a handful of users. After the
user base reached 150 blind users and 400 helpers, the group was awarded a
substantial grant from Velux, a Danish window and skylight company.
Development continued until January 15, when the Be My Eyes app and service
were released worldwide.

"The response was more than we dreamed," says Wiberg. "In just a few days we
had over 60,000 users, most of them potential helpers," he says. "The
signups came so fast, by the end of the second day we had to suspend the
service while we moved to the largest server our provider can host."

The main app screen displays a running count of the number of sighted and
blind users who are registered. It also displays the number of individuals
who have been helped—over 10,000 in the first six days. A future app update
will also include the numbers of volunteers who are currently available.
"This will help users have some idea of how long it will take to either
offer or receive help," says Wiberg.

Putting Be My Eyes Through its Paces

I first tried Be My Eyes just a few days after it was released. The first
two attempts were unsuccessful: after 20 minutes I had not yet been
connected to a volunteer. I was using the app late on a Sunday evening,
around the time when the servers were being swamped with setup requests, so
those circumstances may have played a part in the delays.

The next day I tried the app several times, and each time I was connected
within 2 minutes. According to Wiberg, this is the norm. "There are going to
be people who for some reason cannot answer an alert in time, and we have to
connect to several different helpers, one at a time, before a request is
answered. Other times there may be server problems caused by our rapid
growth. My advice to users seeking help is that if there is no response
within 3 or 4 minutes, disconnect and immediately try again."

My first Monday call was answered by a woman in Britain. My question was
simple: "Is this package of teabags caffeinated or decaf?" "Caffeinated,"
came the reply, and after a quick "thank you," I disconnected. Total time:
less than 2 minutes from start to finish.

My second request was answered by a man in California. He helped me access
my thermostat and find the LCD off setting.

My third session was answered by a man in Germany. I had inadvertently left
the plastic cover to a vegetable seed starter on the patio table, and
sometime during the night it had blown away. Together the volunteer and I
search the backyard for it. We did not find it, but the help was still
useful as it saved me the considerable time I might have spent walking
around the yard, hoping to encounter it.

One task I did not try, and hope I do not have cause to for some time to
come, is getting help with the computer error message that has in the past
locked up my screen reader or prevented it from booting. My computer seems
to know when all of my friends and family are unavailable. It must—why else
would it always choose those times to crash?

On initial setup, the Be My Eyes app uses your iOS device's default language
setting to direct your calls. English speaking helpers are always connected
with English speaking help requesters, French with French, and so forth. But
the app's Setting menu offers you the ability to add additional languages,
which is how I was able to connect with an English speaking helper in
Germany.

Privacy

According to Wiberg, your personal information is not shared with the
helper. You may then wonder why you need to enter your name and e-mail
address to create a Be My Eyes account. When I posed this question, Wiberg
replied, "Both the helper and user can report a problem member, and we can
then block that [account] and prevent [the user] from returning."
Unfortunately, the version I tested, 1.2 (45), did not require any e-mail
verification, which means someone could make up a series of false accounts
and cause mischief. Perhaps verification will be a part of an update in a
future version.

Common sense would dictate that Be My Eyes users avoid asking questions
about bank or credit card statements, medical reports, or any other
information you want to remain private. Wiberg offers a useful rule of
thumb: "If you were walking down a street and needed to know what you are
considering asking [a Be My Eyes helper], would you feel uncomfortable
asking a stranger?" If so, find some other way to obtain the information.
Some may wish to consider the opposite scenario: Perhaps there is something
you wish to keep private from your friends and family?

It's probably best to avoid asking a Be My Eyes helper to assist in
orientation at a busy intersection or other potentially dangerous scenario.
Currently, the app contains no rating system for users to weed out what I
can only believe would be a very few bad apples.

What's Ahead for the Be My Eyes App

Wiberg is determined to keep the service free. He states that currently they
have enough money to pay for development and server resources through next
September. Consequently, I would not be surprised to see a Donate button pop
up in a future release of the app, on the company's website, or both.

The app is currently available only for iOS devices. There are no immediate
plans to create an Android version.

Ironically, the biggest hurdle Be My Eyes currently faces is finding enough
blind users. "The response to the opportunity to become volunteers has been
overwhelming," says Wiberg. "If they don't get the chance to become fully
involved, they may grow frustrated and uninstall the app."

Until I uninstalled it, I had a dinosaur app on my iPhone to entertain my
granddaughter. Every so often, even when the app was not running, I received
an alert asking if I wanted to play. I can see many potential helpers who
might reset their phone or change devices, and forget to restart the app.
Perhaps a future update might include a similar gentle reminder to those
with the app installed but left closed for several weeks?

I also hope Wiberg and his colleagues publish a Be My Eyes API that would
enable other apps to seamlessly link to the app. BlindSquare, which we
reviewed in the  <http://www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw150704> July
2014 AccessWorld , offers the ability to reach out to someone in your
contact list for a bit of e-mail or text message help. Imagine how much more
powerful BlindSquare, or the Seeing Eye App for iPhone, would be if users
could request sighted help directly from within their accessible navigation
app?

As it is now, Be My Eyes is an extremely powerful platform whose time has
come. I will still keep both TapTapSee and KNFB Reader on my iPhone home
screen, but Be My Eyes will definitely be my fallback—and in many instances,
my go-to—resource for those times when greater independence can best be
achieved by knowing when and how to ask for help.

 

 

 

Blessed is every one who fears the Lord, who walks in his ways!        

Psalm 128:1-5

 

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  • » [accesscomp] FW: A Review of the Be My Eyes Remote Sighted Helper App for Apple iOS, Dan's tip for February 16 2015 - Robert Acosta