overTHERE

Last modified
Wednesday, October 4, 2017
Category

Description of App

overTHERE is an app for outdoor use in finding out exactly where businesses and other things are located . Simply hold your phone parallel to the ground and point the top of the phone in any direction to hear the nearest thing in that direction. We call these announcements “signs” as if they were audible signs in the environment. Pointing at the signs is a little like tuning an old radio, with each sign being clear when you point straight at it, and getting staticky as you point away from it. This helps indicate exactly where the app thinks the signs are. Location accuracy is indicated by an intermittent buzzing noise that gets louder with increasing position uncertainty. Loud and frequent buzzing indicates that the app’s information may be unreliable and should not be taken too seriously.

Holding the phone vertically turns off announcements and lets you interact with the clockwise list of signs around you. Selecting any of the items from the list displays More Info.

In this More Info view, when the phone is vertical, you can use VoiceOver to review details such as address, phone number, and web site. You can select these details to open the maps app, call the business, or display the web site. Holding the phone parallel to the ground in the More Info view silences all signs except for the selected one. This lets you focus in on a specific sign even in a crowded environment. To return to the main screen and turn the other signs back on, simply hold the phone vertically and select the Back button in the top-left corner of the More Info screen.

It is also possible to create your own custom signs using the Add Sign button at the top-left corner of the main overTHERE screen. Simply stand in the location where you want the sign to be located, press the Add Sign button, and enter the text you want to appear on the sign. Pressing the Save Sign button adds your sign to the environment and returns you to the main screen. Be sure you have good location accuracy when you do this, or your sign may not be exactly where you want it. Note that Custom Signs are device specific, and are not yet sharable.

The Help and Settings button offers documentation on how to use the app, the ability to leave feedback for the developers as a text e-mail or by attaching a voice recording, and several user settings.
Settings include:
The ability to toggle on and off automatic announcements of how many signs are "too close to call." When signs are too close to your location, the app is unable to provide directional information. When enabled, this feature provides feedback about unannounced signs.
Max Distance -- In crowded urban environments it is generally best to limit the maximum distance of the signs that are announced by overTHERE. The default max distance of 500 ft is good for most cities and towns. In more sparse suburban environments it can be beneficial to increase the max distance in order to find signs further away. This setting allows you to adjust this parameter when desired.
Distance Units in feet or meters -- Each sign automatically speaks its name, the address if available, and the estimated distance to the sign. This setting allows the selection of imperial or metric distance units.
Speech Rate -- It is possible to adjust the TTS speaking rate for the sign announcements.
Speech Pitch -- It is possible to adjust the TTS voice pitch for the sign announcements.

overTHERE grew out of Smith-Kettlewell's Virtual Talking Signs project. The app uses an interface based on Talking Signs – a system of infrared transmitters and receivers that Smith-Kettlewell originally developed to make signage accessible for blind pedestrians. The original Talking Signs system allowed the location of a transmitter to be determined by moving the receiver back and forth across the beam of a transmitter until the strongest signal is heard. overTHERE uses a similar interface, offering many of the advantages of Talking Signs, but now the transmitters are Google map pins and the receiver is your iPhone.

We offer overTHERE as a free, powerful demonstration of this compelling virtual Talking Signs interface for use in providing accessible environmental information. overTHERE does not attempt to compete with the scope and power of other accessible GPS apps with their rich feature sets and route navigation. Rather, overTHERE is a simple app that performs a SINGLE job -- telling the user quickly and intuitively what is "over there."

overTHERE is intended for outdoor use only. It is designed to convey information about the locations of things around you. It uses Google Places, GPS, and other sensors in your phone to determine where you are and where you are pointing. It only tells you about things that Google knows about in your immediate neighborhood, and not all nearby signs will be visible from any given location. Sometimes when locations are too close to your position, the app does not report them because it is impossible to determine their direction. There may also be signs nearby that are being partially or completely blocked by other signs that are closer to you. Like any app, the information provided by overTHERE may be incomplete, inaccurate, or incorrect. Please take its information with a grain of salt. As with many apps that use location services, results may be poor in very dense urban environments with extremely tall buildings.

Keep in touch with the latest news about overTHERE by following us on Twitter: @overTHERE4iOS

You can get in touch by e-mail at overthere@ski.org

Version

1.1

Free or Paid

Free

Apple Watch Support

No

Device(s) App Was Tested On

iPhone

Accessibility Comments

This app was designed to be compatible with VoiceOver, so standard interaction is excellent. The app disables VoiceOver commands and screen interaction when the phone is held horizontally. This is so stray VoiceOver utterances do not interfere with the spoken messages of the signs. Users who forget this may have difficulty navigating the interface, but holding the phone vertically re-enables all VoiceOver functions.

iOS Version

10

VoiceOver Performance

VoiceOver reads all page elements.

Button Labeling

Most buttons are clearly labeled.

Usability

The app is fully accessible with VoiceOver and is easy to navigate and use.

Developer's Twitter Username

@overTHERE4iOS

Recommendations

2 people have recommended this app

Most recently recommended by Deborah Armstrong 3 years 8 months ago

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Comments

Submitted by JeffB on Friday, September 9, 2016

This seems cool and that it will get better over time. I wonder how it gets the info is it picking it up from a GPS sourse cause I doubt someone around me would have added signs already. I wish you could change the voice from Samantha as well. Still this is a neat app.

Submitted by Josh on Friday, September 9, 2016

In reply to by JeffB

Hi, Jeff -- thanks for your comments. I agree that it would be nice to change the voice and we may be adding that in the future.

You're right -- nobody went around adding signs in your neighborhood. the data is from Google Places, part of the Google Maps API. The cool thing about this is that it should provide reasonable signage pretty much everywhere.
Thanks for trying overTHERE!

Submitted by Deborah Armstrong on Thursday, November 10, 2016

I am very impressed with this app which works as described above. In conjunction with BlindSquare it's particularly helpful because though BlindSquare tells you what's nearby you often aren't quite sure where that nearby place is.
When riding in a fast car the app is not useful but I expected that. Virtual "signs" flash by too swiftly for the app to finish reading them. That's OK because you are often on a highway and couldn't stop there anyway.
Riding in traffic congestion though, the app is truly fun. You are moving slow enough you cam point the phone to every place around you and see what's there. The distance at which "signs" can be voiced is configurable.

Riding on a slow bus also works great. The extra info gives you the telephone number for most places so if you ride with a digital recorder connected to your phone you can capture a great deal of info about what's immediately on your route. It's great for knowing if the bus passes places you might need in the future.
Walking, especially downtown it's helpful in ways one might not expect. Even if you don't need the Bank of America, knowing when you are standing directly in front of it tells you exactly whether you are on or off-course!

Submitted by Voracious P. Brain on Sunday, March 26, 2017

I'm a little surprised not to read more "buzz" about this little app on the forums. Personally, for my day-to-day travel, what I need is the ability to quickly and simply confirm where I am in terms of landmarks around me. I love the audio-spatial metaphor in this app, since it's harder to hear language on a busy street. If only the app would either work in the background or else (and this would be better) deliver heading information as well as sign reporting, it would really do all I need from a GPS app. Here's a message I just sent the developer...

Here's how it would work, in my mind:
* while the device is horizontal, the screen displays the compass heading and a "lock heading" button. (I'm assuming a button can't have dynamic text like the compass heading itself)
* Voiceover can read the compass heading. But, when the user presses the "Lock heading" button, the compass value at that moment is "locked" and the user hears a sonar ping as ong as she or he is moving in that direction, plus or minus a few degrees.
* Ideally, the number of degrees to be considered "on course" could be set in settings. For me, the best default would be around 3 degrees.
* if you wanted to get really fancy, you could use positional audio for the benefit of anyone using headphones to indicate in what direction the desired heading is. A slightly off-course heading would be lower in tone, mimicking the Dopler Effect, while more off-course headings would be much softer in tone, so that it's helpful to people using the speaker.

One other feature I would really love to see is the ability to export custom signs as a csv file, so that I could work on importing them into other apps like Ariadne GPS or BlindSquare. Sent from my iPhone

Submitted by Josh on Sunday, March 26, 2017

In reply to by Voracious P. Brain

@Voracious P.
Thanks for your complements and suggestions. Including cardinal direction and heading cues in overTHERE is a great idea, and one which we already have on the road map. Similarly, sharing your own custom signs is also a high priority for future enhancements. I'm really glad you like the app, and welcome your help in generating more buzz about it (smile)
Please remember you can follow us on Twitter @overTHERE4iOS

Submitted by Troy B on Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The church I go to is just down the street, within walking distance. If I walk by myself though there's no real way for me to know when to cross the street to get to the church. The best I can do is to walk a little way past a cement driveway and then cross, but could I use the over there app to find where to cross the street by pointing my phone across the street to locate the church after I pass the driveway mentioned above?

Thank you,, I haven't tried this app yet but if I can use it as described above I definitely will try it out.

Submitted by Jo on Sunday, June 11, 2017

Two of my friends installed this app and were using it in the car that we were all riding in. When I opened up the app, it would not read the signs that we passed with the app's voice as theirs did. I could right flick through the screen while holding the phone horizontally and VoiceOver would read the signs. Turning the top of the phone in different directions didn't do anything. VoiceOver was not disabled when holding the phone horizontally as I had read in the post; and changing the phone to the vertical position didn't make any difference. We all have iPhone 6S models running the latest iOS 10 update. Is there a setting that I might need to change to make this app work correctly? I thought it might have something to do with a VoiceOver or some sort of motion setting. I love knowing what's around me while walking or in a car. I would appreciate any help you can provide and I have already contacted the app developer. Thanks.

Jo Anne Stombaugh