VoiceOver is a community radio device where neighbours can connect and chat over digital radio.
The radio or the wireless has often been depicted as a family hub with everyone gathering round to hear the broadcast. This idea and radio technology offers an excellent solution to isolation, alienation and loneliness in today’s communities and it is exactly this that Umbrellium’s VoiceOver aims to do.
The rise of “smart” devices and cities that automatically detect and optimise operations or conditions are increasingly removing human intervention for more accurate and fast-acting technologies, but as CityMetric describes this fails to address the very people and issues that the technology is meant to fix. VoiceOver is run on 3G or 4G network so that it can, and has been, deployed in areas with poor broadband connection. VoiceOver uses the technology available to us to connect real people in a tangible way where they can bond and build their community.
It has been deployed in Brighton, East Durham and Finsbury Park in London. Reminiscent of using walkie-talkies with your friends, VoiceOver users can respond to each other to have chat, ask questions or answer each other’s questions. Users can also host their own broadcasts for their listeners in the community. Over a 4 week period, 30 participants in the Brighton VoiceOver community aired 850 audio posts accumulating to over 8.5 hours.
A lot of technology and social networking sites aim to create these kinds of communities and might facilitate some of the same conversations and connections, but hearing and speaking to your community members in real-time is a unique and tangible connection. In Durham, three cousins who had never met found out that they had been living in the same neighbourhood all along! This kind of technology can offer the same kind of company and solace as a phone call to someone suffering from loneliness, such as elderly people, or it can mobilise communities and foster real relationships.