Our mission is to make the world more accessible for people who are blind or have low vision. Since our founding in 2015, Be My Eyes has worked to connect our 6.3 million volunteers to users to assist them with everyday tasks. Our new Virtual Volunteer tool, currently in beta testing, will push us further toward achieving our goal to improve accessibility, usability, and access to information globally, and aligns us with OpenAI’s stated principles on developing safe and responsible AI.
This technology will be transformative in providing people who are blind or have low vision with powerful new resources to better navigate physical environments, address everyday needs, and gain more independence.
The Virtual Volunteer feature from Be My Eyes will be integrated into the existing app and is powered by OpenAI’s new GPT-4 language model, which contains a dynamic new image-to-text generator. Users can send images via the app to an AI-powered Virtual Volunteer, which will answer any question about that image and provide instantaneous visual assistance for a wide variety of tasks.
What sets the Virtual Volunteer tool apart from other image-to-text technology available today is context, with a deeper level of understanding and conversational ability not yet seen in the digital assistant field. For example, if a user sends a picture of the inside of their refrigerator, the Virtual Volunteer will not only be able to correctly identify what’s in it, but also extrapolate and analyze what can be prepared with those ingredients. The tool can also then offer a number of recipes for those ingredients and send a step-by-step guide on how to make them.
If and when the tool is unable to answer a question, it will automatically offer users the option to be connected via the app to a sighted volunteer for assistance – our volunteer experience isn’t going anywhere.
This new feature promises to not only better support the blind and low-vision community through our app, but we also believe it will offer a way for businesses to better serve their customers by prioritizing accessibility. We plan to begin beta testing this with our corporate customers in the coming weeks, and to make it broadly available later this year as part of our Specialized Help offering.
This feature is currently in a closed beta and is being tested for feedback among a small subset of our users. We will expand the group of beta testers over the next few weeks and we hope to make the Virtual Volunteer broadly available in the coming months. Just like our existing volunteer service, this tool is free for all blind and low-vision community members using the Be My Eyes app.
We’re going to listen hard to our community and continuously work to improve the technology and experience. It’s deeply important to us that our community has a significant role in helping us further develop this tool by providing critical, valuable feedback that will influence the future of this technology and what it’s able to provide. From developing additional use cases to shaping the interface, we want our community to shape this technology to best serve their needs. Our team at Be My Eyes is incredibly grateful to our users for their input, and we’ll continue to welcome feedback as we fine tune this new tool. We’re committed to moving thoughtfully and listening intently, while prioritizing safety above all else.
Eventually, we hope to apply this technology to provide people with powerful tools and capabilities to enrich their virtual assistant experience in amazing and complex ways we never thought would be possible.
Imagine navigating a train system in an unfamiliar place, traveling in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language, browsing websites and social media platforms, online shopping, and a host of other ways we know our community will help us identify – the possibilities are limitless, and we’re just getting started.
If you or someone you know is blind and wants to be put on a waiting list to test-drive the Virtual Volunteer tool, you can register here to the waitlist.