At Apple's WWDC yesterday, they announced Apple Vision Pro - an augmented reality headset. Apple demonstrated many examples using the Vision Pro with games, movies, communications, and general business productivity apps.
When discussing the Vision Pro with family members and online friends, the main topic is how amazing the Vision Pro will be for entertainment. Not many people are mentioning the amazing industrial and business applications that would be well-suited for Vision Pro.
I immediately thought of the "Be My Eyes" app. I've written before about how "Be My Eyes" helps blind or vision impaired users get assistance from sighted users for minor tasks. I've been a volunteer for this app for several years. I've helped people find cat pee on their floor, choose a snack from their pantry, or find a can of regular green beans versus french string beans.
The current version of the "Be My Eyes" app is best suited for occasional small tasks. It's not meant to solve complex problems where the person is struggling to hold their phone while working on the task and keeping it focused or in view for the assistant. In most cases, "Be My Eyes" calls are completed in a few minutes.
Giving Sight to the Sightless
Now, imagine how a modified¹ Vision Pro could change how a "Be My Eyes" volunteer interacts with the vision impaired person.
A blind person needs assistance with setting up a new computer. The computer has been delivered in a giant box. They need to unpack the box, read the "Quick Start" manual, and then set up all the cables and peripherals. This is a daunting task even for a sighted person.
For the vision impaired, it can be overwhelming. Using Vision Pro, the helper could walk the person through the entire set up process because the cameras let the assistant "see" what the vision impaired person cannot.
A blind person might have trouble making a complicated meal for the first time. While wearing the Vision Pro, they receive guidance from someone remotely. That person could walk them through selecting ingredients from the pantry, reading the recipe book, measuring out ingredients, walk them through mixing and preparation, and assisting them in putting the meal in the oven or on the stove.
Later, the assistant could help them ensure the meal is properly cooked or that the bread has risen without opening the oven.
Simple to complex household scenarios are not the only times that the vision impaired need assistance. There are tasks so complicated that the vision impaired would normally need someone on site to assist them.
Imagine how uncomfortable you may feel when traveling to an unknown area of your city or even to another city. Now imagine how much scarier that is for someone with low to no vision.
With the Vision Pro, they could always have a helping hand available.
After putting on the device, they could get assistance with exiting a bus and walking several blocks to their new office building. Their assistant could help them identify street crossings, cracks in the sidewalk, benches, or any other obstacles that might be difficult to detect with a cane.
The assistant might be able to help them identify a safer route to take versus one suggested by their map app. They might "see" a sidewalk in better condition or with fewer obstacles that the blind person would never discover.
After a few days of getting to the new office with assistance, they may be comfortable enough to do so on their own.
Grocery shopping for the vision impaired could be transformed by having a virtual assistant with them throughout the process.
Their assistant could help them choose the freshest vegetables, calculate the difference in price between different brands and sizes, find the right pain reliever in the pharmacy department, and choose their favorite chocolatey 🍫 treat.
Creating Jobs for the Immobilized or Homebound
"Be My Eyes" currently has over 500,000 customers that need vision assistance who are all served by over 6 1/2 million volunteers.
With the current version of the app, volunteering is the best way to assist those in need. However with more complicated tasks and with the increased functionality available with Vision Pro, volunteers might not be able to handle the workload or the long sessions.
"Be My Eyes" and Apple could collaborate to create a service like ride-sharing apps where qualified and vetted assistants are available 24/7 to help the blind.
The service could allow for specialization to meet specific needs of clients.
- A female client might only want assistance from other females.
- Doctors or nurses could be available for certain scenarios like guiding someone through cleaning and changing bandages.
- People with extensive cooking skills could be available to help clients prepare meals.
- Technically skilled assistants could help people with computer problems
This Service could be a great way for people who are homebound or immobilized to earn an income while at the same time helping others with different disabilities. These jobs would be available to anyone such as:
- Stay at home parents
- Those with physical limitations or time constraints that prevent them from working outside the home
Wouldn't it be incredible to "solve" blindness in many scenarios while empowering others with employment suited to their own abilities?
I'm looking forward to seeing what Apple, "Be My Eyes", other industry leaders, clever individuals, and startups create to take advantage of the capabilities of Apple's Vision Pro.
¹ Vision pro is a powerhouse of a machine that is cost prohibitive for most people. It has a wide range of sensors and outputs that may not benefit the vision impaired at all, I'm sure Apple could work with the blind community to make a lower priced device suited for their needs. For example, the two 4K displays are useless to a blind person. Removing those displays would make the device much more affordable.