overTHERE is a free iPhone app that enables individuals who are blind or visually impaired to explore and interact with the surrounding environment by using virtual audible signs. Pedestrians can have quick and easy access to accurate location information about businesses and other points of interest in the world by simply point their phone in a direction to hear what’s “over there.” Audio cues make it easy to quickly and accurately pinpoint exact locations of businesses and addresses. When pointing straight at a virtual sign the speech is loud and clear, but as you point away from it, the speech starts to get staticky, so you have quick audio feedback about the exact location of the virtual talking sign.
Holding the phone horizontally lets you explore your surroundings using the virtual talking signs interface, but when the phone is held vertically you can use the screen or VoiceOver to review the list of signs around you. By selecting a sign from the list you can access details about a location such as its address, phone number, or web site. overTHERE even lets you create your own virtual talking signs, so you can mark special locations that might otherwise be difficult to find again.
This app grew out of Smith-Kettlewell’s Virtual Talking Signs Project and demonstrates the power of this non visual, augmented-reality interface.