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Sensory Travel Blog Posts

Geocaching Non-visually

October 13, 2014 • sensorytravel

The Geocaching app on the iPhone with VoiceOver affords a way to search for the presence of geo caches in your area, but as far as using it in an accessible way, it is a bit of a challenge as the app has a compass to direct the user but the compass position is not relayed over the VoiceOver. What you can get from the app is the latitude and longitude of the cache itself which can then be entered into another app that is more accessible. The app BlindSquare (costs about $29.99) allows a user to enter their own landmark via latitude and longitude by editing the coordinates. The technical part is that Geocaching displays coordinates in a hybrid form (e.g. 32˚ 49.818′ N and 116˚ 46.574′ W) while BlindSquare uses Decimal degrees (e.g. 32.8303˚ N and 116.7762˚ W); luckily there are free conversion apps you can get to do the math for you. Some of the students on Team 6 might enjoy this challenge while the students in much more functional programs on Team 3 would likely benefit from you preparing the app for them and saving the landmark for your outing.

BlindSquare can provide directions with cardinal directions (N, S, E, W), relative directions (To Your Right, To Your Left, etc.), or clock face (toward One O’Clock, or Three O’Clock), and can have distances express as feet or meters.

The app will get you close to the cache but locating the actual box will be more manual. One way to adapt this is to arrive early and to have a small sound emitter placed at the cache or coordinate directions with tactile landmarks that will be clues to bring the students in closer. At some point you may be able use things like iBeacons and Nearables (just visit Estimote for fun dreaming about how you could use the technology).

There are many off the shelf products for those with a lot of usable vision, such as the Garmin Colorado series with big bright screens, but to allow a combination of visual and non-visual students to really have access to the same information, the VoiceOver and app combination is about the only thing I am aware of.

Hope this helps!!!

App Options for the Community:

October 13, 2014 • sensorytravel

Many students and consumers have been enjoying the information provided from TapTapSee, an app that allows a user to take a photograph with the their phone and receive back a description of what was photographed when they have VoiceOver running on their phone. This might be taking a picture of a can of soup at the grocery store to determine whether it is Tomato or Chicken Noodle, a photo of a shoe to know if it is black or brown, or even a picture of the sky to hear if it is clear blue or cloudy. The challenge for many folks recently is that the company has found they must now switch to a pay for use model rather than the previously free access. The new fees are 100 Picture Pack for $7.99 or a Month of Unlimited Pictures $9.99. The fee for use is set to begin after the user takes 20 pictures; the user will then be prompted to choose a pay plan to continue. This at least allows a person to try to the service for evaluation before being required to pay for use. The benefit received for this premium is quick response time with clear descriptions, even reading text back if the photograph is clear. The link for the TapTapSee site is

For those who prefer to stay on the free model, there is a recently released app called My Smart Eye from StarHub Mobile and the Singapore Association for the Blind. This company uses “micro-volunteering” to recognize the images sent in by users. Rather than paying for image recognition services as the TapTapSee company must do, the MySmartEye app sends the images to volunteers who have downloaded the app and signed in via their Facebook account and who then provide a description of the photograph. At the present time, there is a significant delay in hearing the response. If the user is lucky enough to take the picture when a volunteer is describing the picture it could happen very quickly, but if not, you may have already left the store where you took the picture of a product to find out what it was before you receive the description. Also, the volunteer receives a picture which is quite blurry and may not be able to provide as detailed or accurate of a description as those delivered by TapTapSee. Hopefully the volunteer pool will increase the response time will be more rapid. The link for the MySmartEye is

Though the monthly subscription may be expensive, especially for students, for the integrity and consistency of TapTapSee, the 100 Picture Pack seems a reasonable option for those who can use it for specific purposes and for times when other ways of soliciting information are not available. It is imported for users to remember that the information they photograph may be made public in some way, such as by having the photograph described by another person if the image matching software does not identify the image. So, making sure to not photograph personally identifiable information, such as a Social Security Card or credit card numbers is a necessity for keeping that information secure.

“Can an iPod be used with GPS and other apps that are handy for O&M instruction?”

October 13, 2014 • sensorytravel

Often the question will come up about using an iPod touch or iPad with GPS; this post is intended to give at least a start to answering the question. The iPod and the iPad have different answers to the question though. If you have had a full night’s sleep and or a fresh cup of coffee and are feeling ready to wade into the details, here we go…

The iPod touch and the iPad with WiFi only do come with a digital compass app and when connected to a WiFi network can determine your location. When they do not have internet access, they cannot use location information but the internal sensor will allow the compass to work.

Here is the description from Apple’s iPod Touch product page:
“For iPod touch with Maps, the Maps application provides your approximate location using information based on your proximity to known Wi-Fi networks (when on and available). The more accurate the available information, the smaller the circle identifying your position on the map. The feature is not available in all areas. Known Wi-Fi networks are predominantly in urban areas.”

One way that the iPod and the WiFi only iPad can be used away from a location that has WiFi, such as a school, office, or home, is to connect the device to the a personal hotspot or to an external GPS receiver, such as the Dual Electronics GPS Receiver (Link for product at,

There are some apps that may give limited information about location based on Skyhook data, which is information provided by local networks in their WiFi, this information is transmitted even when not actually “connected” to the WiFi network.

Generally, unless in a very rural area with limited cellular service, the safest route to guarantee the best integrity of information is to share the internet connection by using the option to set up a personal hotspot on a smartphone (such as the instructor’s telephone when they are in close proximity to the student) or having the student carry a mobile hotspot device such as a MiFi.

The iPad with cellular and WiFi capability, like the iPhone, uses hardware that allows it to use Assisted GPS, or A GPS, which uses a combination of information from GPS and cellular/WiFi data to identify your location. The A GPS allows you to have much faster information about your location than waiting for a connection to satellites alone.

So, there are many answers to the original question, “Can an iPod be used with GPS and other apps that are handy for O&M instruction?” Each application purchased on the Apple App Store has information about which devices can be used with it and will generally include a disclaimer for the iPod Touch and iPad with WiFi only to let the purchaser know that the full functionality of the app requires an internet connection. The trick then is to get the internet connection to the device.

As new devices arrive in the marketplace, new capabilities arrive, so the answer today may be different than tomorrow’s answer. It is a quickly evolving area and one that our students generally take to like water.

Happy Adventuring with Technology!
: )