Be My Eyes Launches A Specialized Help Feature, Which Will Be Amazing If Enough Companies Go Along With It

If you’re a smartphone having blind person and you haven’t used Be My Eyes, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that your life is at least a little more frustrating than it needs to be. And if you’re a smartphone having sighted person and you’ve spent any time at all volunteering as a helper, thank you for making our lives a little less frustrating than they used to be.

In the years that it’s existed, I’ve either used or seen it used to do everything from identifying details about a package that’s stumped the automated scanning apps to making sure medicine is mixed correctly to getting registration numbers off of electronics to reading room numbers in hotels to answering some of the dreaded questions about lights and silent error messages that the blind kid can’t possibly answer for the friendly tech support agent.

Long story short, there’s not much it can’t help with. But even so, it’s still trying to make itself better, and if enough companies get behind this new plan, it could be a hell of a thing.

As you know, Be My Eyes is here to help you tackle a wide range of visual challenges as you go about your day. Until today, Be My Eyes has randomly connected you to a volunteer to solve daily tasks. Some tasks, however, require specialized assistance.

Contacting customer support through email or by phone isn’t always ideal. Direct communication with a business’s customer support agent could be a more vision-friendly alternative and less time consuming for you. If someone from the company could see the issue in real time, issues with their products or services could be resolved more efficiently.

So we’ve strategized a way to better assist you: enlisting the help of representatives from companies whose products you use all the time. It’s our sincere pleasure to introduce Specialized Help. This new feature means that a trained company representative is available to answer questions or help you tackle issues with speed and in-depth solutions. Maybe you need help figuring out how to use an unfamiliar product, or you might want to interact on a company’s app or website while on the phone with their representative. With Specialized Help, it’s easy to get in touch with businesses and organizations when you encounter a challenge with their products or services. And as always, it’s completely free.

The next time you update your Be My Eyes app, there will be a second button added to the main screen to take you to the Specialized Help Menu. Clicking “Specialized Help” will lead you to the list of companies with representatives available to answer your call and assist you through a live video connection. Each business profile will include descriptions of their services, hours of operation, and supported languages.

So far the only company officially announced as participating is Microsoft, but the hope is that over time that list will grow. To that end, if you have thoughts about companies you would like to see added, Be My Eyes is looking for feedback. You can write to them at I’ve already suggested internet and tv providers as a priority, but maybe you have an idea that’s just as good or better.

Apple Will Soon Let You Decide If Your Ancient Phone Should Be Slow Garbage Or Fast Garbage

You might recall Apple catching some hell at the end of last year when it came out that the company was intentionally slowing down some older iPhones in order to protect their batteries. Since then, there have been lawsuits, apologies and a promise that come the next update to iOS 11, you can take the life of your old ass phone into your own dumb ass hands if you so choose. Basically, Apple has decided to do now what it should have done in the first place. As far as I’m concerned at least, slowing down the phones was never the problem. Keeping quiet about it was the problem.

In an interview with ABC News, Cook said the update will arrive next month in a developer release before a wider public rollout. “We’re going to give people the visibility of the health of their battery so it’s very, very transparent,” he says. “This hasn’t been done before.”
Cook also says the update will more clearly inform users when their iPhone is automatically reducing its performance in an effort to prevent unexpected shutdowns. “If you don’t want it, you can turn it off,” Cook says, though he maintains that this is not recommended — something Apple stands by in its apology letter that addressed consumers after the backlash in December.

FoldiMate: The Overpriced, Half-assed Laundry Helper You’ve Been Waiting For

Normally I would start off a post like this by wondering aloud just who is the target market for our friend FoldiMate here, but you know what? Not today. There’s no need. I know exactly who this is aimed at. Idiots. Idiots with way too much money and nothing to do with it. Seriously, what other answer can there be? Who but the most well-to-do of morons is spending nearly $1,000 on a copy machine sized monster that can fold some but not all of their laundry?

That’s right, some.

“Regular shirts?”



“You bet.”


“The button-up ones? Yeah, we got you.”


“Yup, we’ve just figured those out.”

“Pillow cases?”

“Nailed those down in the new version, too.”

“What about socks or underwear or sweaters or hoodies or anything in my baby’s wardrobe?”

“Uh…well…you see…here’s the thing…it’s like this…erm…No.”

And not only can it not handle that many things, but you have to stand there feeding the ones it can into it individually instead of, gasp, folding them your goddamn self.

For what you get for the price, why not just hire a maid? I know they might want a day off here and there and the odd one is going to rifle your jewelry box, but at least they know how to fold a friggin sleeper.

I Don’t Know About That!

A little while ago, I wondered if my grandma could benefit from one of those Amazon Echo things. I thought maybe it could call people since she says she can’t see the numbers on the phone and doesn’t know how to do it another way, check the weather, read the news, play music, etc. But I came to realize there was way too much setup, and after talking to lots of people, it became clear that she likely wouldn’t really get the idea of talking to a box and giving it commands.

Yeah, after watching that video, maybe I’ll just try and get her a phone with lots of speed dial options on it and teach her how to dial by feel, make sure she has a radio and leave it at that.

And There I Was, Switching Tapes Like An Idiot Every Time I wanted To Hear Something Different

I’m sure at some point, whether it held 3 or 5 or 25, almost all of us owned some sort of CD changer. And when I was young I remember my mom having a record player that could hold something like three or 4 at a time. But until today, I don’t remember ever having heard of a cassette changer. Damn, do I ever wish I’d had one. Life would have been so much simpler.

Imagine if someone tried to create an iPod type device for the home in 1972 using mechanical technology…this is what it would look like.

According to the adverts – the Panasonic RS-296US could play 2.5 days of music non-stop…that’s roughly the same play time to the ‘1000 songs in your pocket’ that the first 5GB Apple iPod boasted in 2001.

2.5 days of play time equates to 60 hours which would require 20x 180-min cassettes. Whilst these tapes did exist at one point, 180-minute lengths were also very fragile and best avoided.

A more realistic play time is to load this machine up with 20x 90-minute cassettes which gives you 30 hours, and that’s why I refer to the ‘day and a half’ of continuous music at the end of video.

Hours Of Fun In Emergency Rooms?

Here’s Gill to talk some questionable toys. As for memories of unsafe things I did as a kid, I’m not even sure where to start. I grew up when we still had tire swings and climbables with gravel underneath them, so the list is fairly long.

From flammable train sets to rebounder trampolines I’m counting down several toys throughout the years that somehow made it to market.

  • 1 The Stevenson Toy Company Model Dockyard – In the middle of the 19th century people thought that people, especially children were hale and hearty enough to handle a train set that literally ran on water and kerosene. What was even worse was this toy train spewed its contents wherever it went.
  • 2 Gilbert Caster set – flash forward to the 1930’s and young boys are fascinated by toy soldiers, but why buy them ready-made when you can make them yourself? That’s right for the low low price of severe burns and scarring you can make your own with molten lead.
  • 3 Slip And Slide – Yes friends here we are in the decade that brought us civil rights and acid trips. Someone may have wanted to tell the fine folks at Wham-O that it wasn’t just kids who would indulge in this literal head dive on to plastic. Many teens and adults were rendered somehow paralyzed before 1993 brought changes to the device.
  • 4 Easy Bake Oven – Staying in the 1960’s for another moment. If you loved watching mom, aunt Jane, or grandma make those awesome cinnamon cookies or fabulous triple chocolate cupcakes then this amputation trap of joy was exactly what you needed. Making its debut in 1963 girls found themselves getting their fingers caught in the door among other places.
  • 5 Rebounder Trampolines – Here we are in the decade of parachute pants and ColecoVisions. Yes the 1980’s. Who would just want to dance to Duran Duran when one could possibly break ones arm on a mini-trampoline? The packaging did warn of safety hazards, but people didn’t always listen. On a personal note, a family friend always supervised my sister and I when we would play on this in her living room, because unlike full sized trampolines rebounders didn’t have the same safety guards


What toy or memory of something possibly unsafe by today’s standards did you do in your childhood?

Gillie telling you to have a touch of fun

Timeless: A Potential New App To Help People With Dementia

I saw this article the other day, and it made me so happy. Emma Yang is going to do amazing things with her skills, of that I am sure. Maybe she could unite with Shubham Banerjee and do some amazing things.

She saw her grandmother struggling with the effects of Alzheimer’s, and at 14, built an app to help others with the disease. This app sounds super cool. It’s kind of like Seeing AI for folks with Alzheimer’s.

In her app under development, called Timeless, Alzheimer’s patients can scroll through photos of friends and family, and the app will tell them who the person is and how they’re related to the patient using facial recognition tech. If a patient doesn’t recognize someone in the same room, they can take a picture and the tech will also try to automatically identify them.
“I saw a lot of things about how AI and facial recognition were really evolving and being applied in more and more areas, especially healthcare,” she says. She partnered with mentors at the tech company Kairos, which makes the facial recognition software that is now used by the app, and learned to code for the iPhone for the first time.
The app also includes a simple reminder screen that lists appointments for the day, along with a simple contacts screen that shows photos of family members along with names. If a patient tries to call a contact repeatedly–something that can sometimes happen because of the disease–the app will flash a quick reminder: “Are you sure you want to call? You just called less than five minutes ago.” A “me” page shows the patient’s own name, age, phone number, and address.
A caregiver maintains some of the other parts of the app, including putting events on the daily calendar, and inviting friends and family to send an initial set of photos that the facial recognition algorithm can use to learn to identify them.

Isn’t that the best thing in the history of ever? And she’s 14!

If you are as moved as I was, contribute to her campaign. This sort of thinking needs to be encouraged.

Good luck, and keep using your coding power for good.

A Demonstration Of The Voder, The World’s First Speech Synthesizer

Long ago, Carin put up audio of a history of different speech synthesizers meant to show how the technology has evolved through the years. Included in that demonstration was the Voder, a device first shown by Bell Labs in 1939. What you heard back then was only a few seconds of it, but because the internet is an amazing place, we can now watch six minutes of that presentation.

And here’s an explanation of how it worked. TLDR: it was complicated as hell and almost no one could figure it out.

The Voder was a beast to operate. The machine could create 20 or so different electric buzzes and chirps, which the operator would manipulate using 10 keys, a wrist plate, and a pedal. The spectrum of buzzes and hisses could be orchestrated to mimic speech using the 10 keys to play a range of sounds, which could switch between voiced (anything that uses the vocal cords, like “uuuuh”) and unvoiced sounds (sounds that don’t use the vocal cords, like “sssss”) with a click of the wrist bar, while the pedal would affect the pitch of the “voice,” which could create a range of inflections.
Creating words with the Voder required thinking about the various sounds that combine to create a single word, and the subtle changes that affect its meaning. It was a difficult and unnatural process, and only between 20-30 people ever even learned how to use it.


The other day, Apple confirmed something that anyone that’s used an iPhone for any length of time already suspected. They’re slowing them down on purpose. The older ones, anyhow.

The reason, so they say, is to protect degrading batteries in older phones. That’s perfectly sensible and I have no reason to doubt them, but it would have been nice to have been told up front when the feature was implemented instead of an admission being made a year later when people online figured it out. It makes the whole thing seem unnecessarily nefarious and even though I should know better, I kind of expected a little more from Apple.

“Lithium-ion batteries become less capable of supplying peak current demands when in cold conditions, [when they] have a low battery charge or as they age over time, which can result in the device unexpectedly shutting down to protect its electronic components,” the company said.
“Last year, we released a feature for iPhone 6, iPhone 6s and iPhone SE to smooth out the instantaneous peaks only when needed to prevent the device from unexpectedly shutting down during these conditions.
“We’ve now extended that feature to iPhone 7 with iOS 11.2, and plan to add support for other products in the future.
“Our goal is to deliver the best experience for customers.”

Even though I absolutely believe that there’s a battery preserving feature, it’s going to take more than a little work to convince me that devices have only been slowing down for a year. I have nothing to back up my opinion aside from personal experience, but having gone through two iPhones and an iPod Touch I feel pretty confident saying that the next time I download an update and things speed up as significantly as they tend to slow down will be the first. Some of that I understand. New features are naturally going to put greater demand on your hardware. But sometimes the degradation is mysteriously sudden and dramatic, and things never get better in spite of performance updates. Whether that’s intentional or not, let’s not kid ourselves. Your phone starting to act like a piece of garbage every couple of years is good for Apple, and don’t think they don’t know that.

I still trust them (at least as much as one can trust a giant corporation), but intentionally turning a phone into trash and staying quiet about it isn’t a great look regardless of why you did it. Apple owes us all a pretty big apology here even though they were probably trying to help, I think.