SeeWithMe lets customers with visual impairment scan thousands of products in Save-On-Foods stores across Western Canada
When 16-year-old Ethan Hinchliff learned that his visually impaired friend had a hard time doing basic shopping, he did what so many teenagers these days do to try to help her: he turned to technology.
He searched the App Store high and low for an application that would help his nearly blind friend use her iPhone and Siri to get the right items she wanted in stores with hundreds of thousands of products – many of which are hard to tell apart just by feel, and some, such as canned food and medications, which are impossible.
The pair tried using the iPhone’s built-in accessibility feature, called VoiceOver, but found it to be cumbersome and confusing.
What she needed was an app with no text, no buttons, and that simply did what she needed: make sure the product in her hands was the one she wanted.
So Ethan made it.
SeeWithMe lets users scan barcodes for thousands of products and speaks the product name aloud – making sure what they want is what’s in their hand.
The entire app is based on user-friendliness. The user simply opens the app (which can be done via voice command) and it’s ready to use. The user can move the phone slowly around the product or the product slowly around in front of the still mobile device, and the app alerts when the barcode has been scanned. It then tells the user the product name.
“This works really well for canned and boxed food items, which are almost impossible to differentiate by feel,” Ethan said.
With help from Save-On-Foods, Ethan was able to load thousands of reliable, accurate product names and barcodes into the app.
Without access to Save-On-Foods’ product database, Ethan’s task would have been nothing short of Herculean.
“There are not widely available databases for barcodes and associated product names online, and the ones that are available are prohibitively expensive,” he said.
With SeeWithMe, users can be confident that almost any product bought at Save-On-Foods will be recognized by the app. And if there’s something missing, a sighted family member or friend can log in to the app’s website at seewithmeapp.com and add the barcode and the product name.
The app can also be used at home on products without a barcode. Ethan explains how SeeWithMe can customize barcodes to specific users:
“A family member or friend can sign into our website and print a custom barcode. Custom barcodes are really helpful because the user is the only person who will hear them, meaning they can add information specifically for them. For example, someone could print a barcode for their medications, one of which might say, ‘Bob’s heart medication, take one pill with dinner.’”
SeeWithMe is available now on the App Store and Google Play store.
“Supporting local innovators and entrepreneurs is so important to Save-On-Foods, and when Ethan brought us the opportunity to help him with SeeWithMe, we knew he shared our commitment to being a good neighbour and going the extra mile for our customers,” said Save-On-Foods vice president of marketing Dan Howe.
For more information, visit www.seewithmeapp.com