News

Twilio powers Be My Eyes app to aid the visually impaired

Cloud communications firm halves response time for app, with 90% of connections made within 30 seconds

Cloud communications platform Twilio has revealed it's powering Be My Eyes, an app to help visually impaired and blind people make their way in the world.

Be My Eyes pairs cameras and video chat to help 178,000 visually impaired people get help from more than three million volunteers.

For example, the camera can be pointed at a sign, document, or even food packaging, letting the remote volunteer read it out.

The chat function can also be used with specific companies that support the app, which include Microsoft, Google and Lloyds Banking, making it easier for visually impaired people to get specialist help using their services, be it for banking, shopping, or booking tickets.

"Relying on friends and family for everyday tasks can be taxing on relationships and prevent people with visual impairments from achieving true independence," said Alexander Hauerslev Jensen, chief commercial officer of Be My Eyes.

The free app has been in use since 2015 across both iPhone and Android. Upon launch, it gained 10,000 volunteers and 1,000 users overnight, suggesting there could be high demand. And as the user base grew, so too did lags in connection time, making the app less useful for those who needed it most.

At the time, Be My Eyes was using multiple providers for video connectivity. Now, it's switched to Twilio Programmable Video for more stability and higher quality connections, reducing connection times in half. Now, Be My Eyes aims to help everyone within a minute of a request, with 90% of connections made within 30 seconds.

"Be My Eyes is 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," said Jensen. "When you’re asking for help, a little bit of time can feel like an eternity. Every second we can shave off wait times means more trust, more engagement, and a stronger bond in our community. A 50% reduction in connection time can mean a world of difference for the user and the Twilio platform enables us to achieve this."

The partnership comes under the remit of Twilio.org, the cloud company's social enterprise division. "Twilio.org was established to help social impact organisations use the power of communications to create positive change on a global scale, and it’s inspiring to see Be My Eyes doing just that," said Erin Reilly, chief social impact officer of Twilio.

"Be My Eyes is enabling people with visual impairments to live independent lives, no matter where they reside in the world," Reilly said. "Their innovative use of Twilio enables Be My Eyes to make sure that their users get help when they need it."

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