Blind Bargains

Blind Bargains Top 10 Stories of 2015: 5. The Year of the Helpful Cloud

We're about halfway through the Blind Bargains annual look at the top 10 biggest and most influential stories of 2015. This year's panel included Jeff Bishop, Shelly Brisbin, Ricky Enger, Chancey Fleet, J.J. Meddaugh, Jamie Pauls, and Joe Steinkamp. You can go here for our previous stories
Let's go to panelist Chancey Fleet for our number 5 story.

We watched quite a few stories in 2015, but this was the only one that watched us back. After a limited 2014 release in Denmark, BeMyEyes for IOS launched internationally on January 15, pairing volunteers with vision to blind people with questions. Within days, thousands of users signed up, and the mainstream media rushed to document our early adventures, from exploring the mysteries of the office vending machine to doing a bit of shopping. Meanwhile, blind smartphone handlers put the system and their own ingenuity to the test, learning about perspective, glare, latency and image quality in the process. We took to Applevis and Twitter to share our feelings of liberation, frustration, and trepidation about this new, strange, unpredictable kind of vision. Applevis and Twitter themselves had, of course, become as comfortable as armchairs by 2015, so few of us were amazed that we turned to one helpful crowd of associates to learn how to get to know another. Compelled by those easy, breezy video vignettes; Hans Jorgen Wiberg s charming TED-X Talk in Copenhagen; or the mere existence of a legitimate opportunity to do good things from the comfort of one s Pokemon pajamas, ten players from Team Sighted signed up for every one from Team Blind. At the close of the year, the app reported 330,000 sighted users, 25,000 blind users, and 119,000 helpful interactions. (Be My Eyes does not currently track more detailed statistics, such as the percentage of connections that are fundamentally about junk food or the number of help requests involving the unexpected and infelicitous presence of a mirror.)

With far less fanfare, Crowdviz entered the iOS eyes-on-demand space in early fall. Positioning itself as an Uber for vision (in contrast to the Be My Eyes hitchhiking model), Crowdviz employs trusted assistants who have undergone background checks and basic training and are, according to Crowdviz founder Akash Khanolkar, uniquely prepared to provide visual insight into everything from tech to outdoor exploration to aesthetics. Throughout the fall, a ten-minute call cost a dollar, and frequent callers quickly got to know the small and unflappable Crowdviz team. The app, which reveals the identities of both parties by using Facetime, is a welcome addition for those of us who place a high value on consistency, worry about the privacy implications of crowdsourced help or subscribe to the TANSTAAFL principle.

As 2015 drew to a close, we were still figuring out whether and how remote visual assistance fits into our lives. Perhaps 2016 will bring answers to some of last year's pressing questions:

How will infrastructure for mobile data, better cameras, and integration with tools for screen-sharing and remote collaboration expand the potential uses of remote visual assistance?

What happens when our camera-based accommodation collides with another person's privacy-based objection? In classrooms, workplaces, gyms and on the streets, where is the line between legitimate access and being a glasshole?

We're never going to mix this technology with drones, right? Right?

Why does the mainstream media think that the killer use case for eyes on demand is a jug of expired milk?

Category: Articles
Displaying 1 comment.
jcast Wednesday, 13-Jan-2016 09:53 AM ET:

While some may have privacy concerns about using these types of services, personally, I can't imagine using such a service for anything I might consider to be sensitive, no matter how secure the service.

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J.J. Meddaugh is an experienced technology writer and computer enthusiast. He is a graduate of Western Michigan University with a major in telecommunications management and a minor in business. When not writing for Blind Bargains, he enjoys travel, playing the keyboard, and meeting new people.

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