Device Review: Be My Eyes by Be My Eyes - Rehabilitation and Prosthetic Services
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Device Review: Be My Eyes by Be My Eyes

Reviewed on July 1st, 2016
By: Raghav Garg – Carnegie Mellon Graduate Student (mentored by university of Pittsburgh AT Consultant, Ed LoPresti, PhD)


Be My Eyes is a free app currently available only for iOS devices such as iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad through the iTunes App Store. The application enables users who are blind to request help from a volunteer community of sighted users. Both sighted volunteer assistants and users who are blind must install the app and register with the service for free through social media or email.

Once installed, the app allows a user who is blind to send a request for assistance. Anyone from the volunteer network can respond to the request, initiating a live video connection. Using the device camera, the user can show the volunteer his or her surroundings and ask for directions, locations of particular products, information on signs and boards, expiration dates on food products, etc. At the other end, the sighted user is able to see the video on their screens and relay information back to the user via live voice. The volunteer is not given any personal information about the blind user.

An alternative to use of this app would be to use standard video chat apps, such as FaceTime or Skype, to call a caregiver, family members, or friends to seek help. However, a known support person may not be available all the time. This app also has the potential to reduce caregiver exhaustion.


The app primarily targets people with visual disabilities. This may include people with partial or complete loss of vision. People with partial vision may need assistance under certain conditions, such as low lighting or fine text. People with cognitive impairments may benefit from assistance with problem solving, depending on the flexibility and willingness of the volunteer.


Users must have sufficient cognitive abilities to know how to operate their phone and the app. The application works on mobile devices that utilize a touch screen interface, so users with fine motor deficits may have some difficulty navigating the application. Help seekers are expected to have sufficient motor control so as to be able to point the camera of their phones in different directions and at the same time be able to talk/communicate with the helpers.


Device Criteria

Affordability: Be My Eyes is free of charge for both sighted and blind users. The user does need to own a compatible iOS device with either a cellular data plan or very regular access to wireless networks.

Compatibility: Currently the app is only compatible with iOS devices. An Android version is planned, but not available at the time of writing. It is not supported on other mobile devices or desktop or laptop computers.

Consumer Reparability: The user cannot repair the application, aside from reinstalling it. It is possible to report bugs to the developers.

Dependability: The app appears to be reliable and no crash issues have been reported. Since the app connects help seekers with volunteers, it is highly dependent on the network connectivity; the user must have good cellular data connectivity or very regular access to a wireless network. The mobile device must also have good battery life, as an active data connection may drain the battery. The app may not work well in areas with a lot of motion or noise.

More fundamentally, dependability of the app relies on the dependability of the volunteer. First, it is reliant on the availability of a volunteer. Typical wait times are reported as a few minutes, but there may be times when wait times increase to a high number of requests or low number of available volunteers. The app will only provide useful assistance if the volunteer does not willfully or unwittingly provide bad advice. In order to regulate this, the developers provide a feature enabling help-seekers to report if a particular volunteer behaved inappropriately, which will cause the volunteer to be banned from using the application in the future.

Durability: Not applicable for the app itself, although it will be dependent on the durability of the smartphone and its components; and strength and reliability of the network.

Ease of Assembly: The app must be installed. The user must then setup an account and fill in their details, indicating whether they seek help or wish to provide it, as well as indicating language preference.

Ease of Maintenance: The only regular maintenance is to allow the app to be updated by the App store when the developer makes updates available. Any problems can be reported to the developers. The user does need to take care of the mobile device, including maintaining battery life and ensuring reliable network access.

Effectiveness: The application is effective in helping visually impaired people with any tasks that requires sighted support or other assistance. This can bridge gaps in other adaptations and accommodations. It also reduces dependence on in-person caregivers, and potentially reduces caregiver burn-out.

Flexibility: The application is very flexible in the range of activities for which it can provide assistance, but does not have a lot of built-in options. Users can report problems with volunteers who, as a result, may be blocked from the system as a whole; but it does not offer help seekers the option to individually deny help from a particular person. They may disconnect and retry to be connected with a different person.

Learnability: The app is intuitive and easy to learn.

Operability: The app is well designed and easy to use. Any person who wishes to use the application needs to have sufficient cognitive capabilities to operate a smart phone and open the app. The application is designed to work with VoiceOver.

Personal Acceptability: An important consideration is the comfort of the user in sharing live video of his or her surroundings. They should be comfortable with sharing live video of their surroundings and the objects in it, including personal effects. The user can listen to the responses of the volunteer either through their earphones for privacy, or through the loudspeaker on their smartphone.

Physical Comfort: Not applicable for the application itself. The user needs to be comfortable with the use of a smart phone, its features, and various components.

Physical Security: Since the application is not a physical device, there are no issues of physical harm to the user.

Portability: The application is portable to all the places where the user may carry his or her mobile device and have good connectivity either through the data connection of the network provider or Wi-Fi.

Securability: There are no physical security issues with the application itself, although the mobile device could be stolen or tampered with, making the app unavailable. The user can set a passcode lock for the mobile device to protect privacy, but the app does not have additional security features.

Supplier Repairability: Bugs can be reported to the developers; as they fix the bugs, updates will be made available. To date, the developers are quite responsive with taking feedback, fixing encountered issues, and further developing the application.







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