Talking Signs Seattle!

Congratulations to Seattle for winning the Federal DOT Grant for Remote Infrared Audio Signage!  This means that various real-world places around Seattle are going to be annotated with identifiers which can be directionally detected.

This should be interesting to Virtual Earth people, Wikimapia, and anyone interested in tacking metadata to real-world locations.

Talking signs address some scenarios which RFID, GPS, and other techniques cannot.  Being based on infrared; they work indoors and are directional (e.g. if the mens and womens bathrooms are next to one another; GPS isn’t necessarily going to tell you which is which).

Additionally, the directional (line of sight) aspect means that talking signs are useful for accessibility for people with vision impairment.  This is the underlying motivation for the project; the federal government is funding this because it’s the law — all cities will eventually be required to implement this technology.

4 thoughts on “Talking Signs Seattle!”

  1. Thanks for the plug and in particular for not blowing my cover.

    Although the system is way beyond its vaporware phase, the inevitability of its ubquity remains unproven. For it to really rock demands a commitment from huge software enterprises because there’s an endless job of maintenance/translation ahead of us. What a grand opportunity for certain entities in the Puget Sound area!


  2. The response from Bill Loughborough regarding Talking Signs(R) technology shows that he has confused the Talking Signs(R) technology which is being installed in Seattle with a development project that is directed at a different market than wayfinding and orientation accessibility for people who are visually disabled. The future technology that he sees as requiring software development is completely unrelated to the Talking Signs(R) technology that is being deployed in Seattle. Talking Signs technology does require any software or further development. It has been deployed in the U.S., Japan, Norway and Canada for over ten years. The maintenance of Talking Signs technology over those years has be minimal to none.

    More information can be found on our web page:

  3. Correction:

    In my post I mistakenly wrote: “Talking Signs technology does require any software…” which should have read “Talking Signs technology does not require any software…”

  4. Hi Ward,

    That is the William from Smith-Kettlewell, which is referenced from talking signs homepage (which I also referenced in my post). He and I are both talking about the same “talking signs” as you are, apparently 🙂 As you say, the signs do not require software — and absolutely should not. However the fact that they include an identifier makes it possible for them to be used in conjunction with network-enabled devices to participate in situations which are considerably more elaborate. These scenarios should be able to be accomplished with no modification at all to the talking signs architecture; and certainly not at the expense of the prime motivating scenario. But finding scenarios which can derive benefit from the existence of talking signs, and which provide value and benefit to a broader population, will only provide market forces to accelerate their adoption and provide added impetus for legislative efforts. At least; that’s my theory…

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