Lend Your Eyes to Help the Blind With This Smart App

Is it too complicated to squeeze helping others into your schedule? Be guilty no more. “Now, there is an app for that,” jokes Hans Jørgen Wiberg in his TEDxCopenhagen talk, before he introduces Be My Eyes, a simple and practical app that connects sighted with blind people around the world to help them with small daily tasks.


Mr. Wiberg, who is visually-impaired himself, was inspired while working for the Danish Blind Society. For two years he visited blind people to advise them on how to start cooking. He often heard the sentence, “If only I had a pair of eyes in my home, once or twice a day, I wouldn’t have to ask friends and family for help.” The blind were referring to many ordinary, daily situations, when they needed a pair of eyes for a short but important moment and were forced to bother their friends, family or neighbors. Such situations were, for example, looking for a can of coconut oil, but being unsure which one of the three cans in the cupboard it is. Or being unable to tell whether the expiration date of a product has passed. Or simply wanting to check themselves out in the mirror before they left home.

Be My Eyes helps in exactly these kinds of situations. It allows blind people to get sighted people into their house for help, without actually having people in their house or needing to ask anyone in particular for help. Through the microphone and video camera on their smart phones, the app connects the blind to thousands of sighted volunteers around the world, who are willing to donate a few minutes of their day to talk to the blind and help out with the small or big task at hand.

What visually impaired people appreciate about the app, is the fact that they don’t need to bother their friends and family for little things. Instead, they get connected to volunteers who already want to help and have indicated that they are available at this time. Even if the volunteer cannot answer the call, it simply gets transferred to the next available one. The app also makes sure that if two users don’t get along, they won’t be paired up again.

The sighted users can be of help anywhere and at any time - while they’re lying on the couch, standing at a line, or during lunch break.

“When we have a break, many of us play casual games, like Angry Birds, Jelly Splash and Fruit Ninja. I think we can do better.” says Mr. Wiberg.

Currently, the app has almost 100,000 sighted and almost 8,000 blind users. It provides for a very easy and convenient way to volunteer. Mr. Wiberg calls it “micro-volunteering” and hopes more people choose it for their free time. 

Photos: Be my Eyes

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Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)
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In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.


Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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