Hospitals

Seeing eye dogs – there’s an app for that?

For people who are visually impaired, seeing eye dogs are not only a warm companion, but they’re a tool to help with everyday life. In a world constantly evolving, however, a new smartphone app is claiming it can replace the four-legged guides. EYEBRIDGE has created an app for the visually impaired that gives them 24/7 access […]

For people who are visually impaired, seeing eye dogs are not only a warm companion, but they’re a tool to help with everyday life. In a world constantly evolving, however, a new smartphone app is claiming it can replace the four-legged guides.

EYEBRIDGE has created an app for the visually impaired that gives them 24/7 access to a human to help them navigate the world and perform day-to-day activities. Along with the app, a customer needs a connection to WiFi or a 3G or 4G connection, and a hardwired earpiece or wireless Bluetooth headset.

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According to the British company’s website, “Once connected, the EyeBridge app automatically enables the rear facing camera and begins to deliver a video feed to your live assistant.”

Even though this app provides live human interaction, there are other aspects to consider when comparing the effectiveness of the technology to the classic canine solution.

For example, in order to connect to the app, and therefore connect to a helper on the other side of the app, the user must be connected to the Internet somehow. This can sometimes be difficult with limited cellular data plans and dead spots where service is unavailable. In situations like these, dogs win over technology.

Another thing to look at when comparing the two is price. Even though training a dog is an up-front cost, organizations such as Guide Dogs for the Blind and Guide Dogs of America provide service dogs at no charge to those who need them. Compare that to EYEBRIDGE’s monthly fees that range from $34 to $272 (prices converted to USD from GBP). Monthly charges provide users with human interaction beginning at 60 minutes for the silver level and top out at 600 minutes for the business level, before extra charges for overage time are factored in. So when it comes to cost, dogs take the cake as well.

Even though dogs can top EYEBRIDGE in some categories, the app still has something dogs can’t provide: live human interaction. The app provides a real person to talk to and guide the user in the right direction.

This kind of interaction can help visually impaired people get on the right train, sort through important mail and documents, and get information about surroundings from a trusted professional, mentioned in the video above.

When taking everything into consideration, seeing eye dogs and EYEBRIDGE both have strengths and weaknesses, and one isn’t necessarily better than the other. It comes down to user preference and cost.