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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

Live Visual Assistance: Comparing BeMyEyes and Aira

May 23, 2019 | Leave a Comment

by David Flament

Tags: , ,

iPhone with visual assistance app, Aira.

Sometimes, you just need to borrow a pair of eyes! Today, that personal visual assistance has become a reality with two apps, BeMyEyes and Aira. With the improvements in cameras on smart phones, a live person is ready and willing to assist.

Aira and BeMyEyes are two apps that connect you to a person who can see what is in the view of your phone’s rear camera. This live personal assistance can help you with tasks like finding your hotel room, setting the temperature on your thermostat or locating misplaced items. I have used both apps and wanted to share my experiences so you could decide if either one can meet your needs.


Be My Eyes

BeMyEyes is a free app.  The app depends on volunteers who take your call and assist you. It is very simple to set up, navigate and use.

BeMyEyes also offers specialized help with Google or Microsoft products.  Tapping on the “specialized help” button puts you in direct contact with the customer support representative via live video call. The customer service representative has the same access to your camera as a volunteer, but you are getting the expert knowledge of the customer service team.

Early on, BeMyEyes had a real problem with calls either not being answered, or taking a very long time to be answered.  They did fix this problem, but over the past several months, I’ve noticed my calls are again taking an extremely long time to be answered. Often, calls are even timing out and I have to call again.

This issue aside, the volunteers are almost always eager to help. However, the problem with volunteers is they do not always know exactly how to help.  You can help them help you by giving them very specific requests. You may find you need to do a little educating about being blind to get the best help.



Aira, on the other hand, is not free. You pay a monthly subscription fee to use the service.  Plans start at $29 a month for 30 minutes and go up from there. The visual assistance is provided by trained professionals. The setup, navigation and use are a little more involved than Be My Eyes, but not that difficult.

The first time I used the Aira app, the agent who took my call asked me a few questions. They explained my answers would help them to provide better assistance. I noticed the difference between a BeMyEyes volunteer and a professional right away.  The Aira agent gave quick, specific instructions. Thanks to my answers to their questions, the instructions were given in a way so I clearly understood what to do. The second time I called, my answers to those questions were already in their system. Even though a different agent took my call, I received the same great help.

While Aira is not free, they do offer Aira Access. Aira Access allows you to use the app as a guest for free, or if you are an Aira subscriber, use it without using your allotted minutes.  Aira Access allows you to use Aira at no cost only in some very specific situations. These include using Aira for working with designated products, JAWS screen reader being one. You can also use Aira Access as a guest for a limited time or when they offer promotions. In addition, Aira has partnered with many businesses including some shopping malls, Walgreens, airports and federal buildings where you can use the service for free. The number of these free access zones continues to grow.


The Right App for the Right Situation

There is a place for both visual assistance apps on my phone. I tend to use Be My Eyes for simple tasks that do not require a lot of explanation. Reading a label or telling me the color of an article of clothing are easy to do with a BeMyEyes volunteer and helps me save my minutes with Aira. I use Aira for more complicated tasks like hooking up my new speaker system.  Where Aira really shines is getting directions. I have tried both apps to find a hotel room and the Aira agent got me there much quicker and without as many things getting in my way.

Both apps are available for Android or Apple smartphones:

BeMyEyes Apple app

Aira Apple app

BeMyEyes Android app

Aira Android app


David was the Manager of Assistive Technology at Second Sense until his retirement in March 2019. Before David retired, he left us with some additional thoughts he wanted to share.

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