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Out the car window: gauging road width

I was returning home from Connaught Place yesterday evening and was looking out the window of my car using my new mini android phone setup. As described in a previous post, the lens is a little above my left eye and this slightly higher perspective gave me some interesting information.

instead of only looking into cars I was able to see a little above the traffic and gauge the kinds of buildings I was crossing. I have a general idea of how complex shop fronts are and what they look like. at a traffic light, I was able to see three pillars that were inside the portico of a building.

A more interesting revelation was when I was able to tell the width of the road. As in I was able to tell that we had driven onto a narrow road as opposed to the main road. This was because everything appeared nearer. Objects were larger in the view and had a harder sound. Admittedly, the soundscape was extremely complex and I’m not in a position to measure distances but it is still good to know whether I’m going on a main road or on a side road. Yes, I use GPS but sometimes, GPS only gives me street names. The vOICe compliments this information nicely because inner roads and lanes are narrower than main roads..

The face recognition feature is handy. For example, if I detect two faces close together when I look out the car window, it usually means that I am looking at two people riding on a motorbike. This translates into better situational awareness and allows me to enhance my own security. I am in a better position to detect if people are getting too close to my car and to sound the alarm in case the driver has not noticed..

iNavigate: accessible GPS on the roads of India

There used to be a time when I could take my trusty Nokia E51, enter my destination and go on my merry way. This was made possible by a program called Wayfinder Access which was probably the only specialized GPS solution that worked outside North America and Europe. This changed when Wayfinder Access collapsed. Since then, there has been no equivalent program. Yes, the later versions of Nokia maps are accessible but you can’t see things like trip distance, time to destination, current speed and what is around you. Yes, we have Google Maps which are accessible on Android, partly accessible on IOS and inaccessible on Symbian. Loadstone GPS also exists but getting turn-by-turn directions is almost impossible.

Enter Navigon and blindSquare. Navigon is fully accessible at least on the iPhone and does not require an Internet connection to work. Its coverage of places at least in Delhi is adequate. Moreover, you can see what is around you, your current speed and trip distance. There are however a few challenges with Navigon.

  • Entering addresses is difficult. You need to enter the name of the city and then on the next screen, the place you want.An app called navigon now is supposed to help with it but it does not work for addresses in India. I get a parsing error whenever I have used the app.
  • The maps do not appear to be updated as frequently as one would like.
  • It will not automatically speak the names of places as you pass them.

Enter blindSquare. This app uses FourSquare and speaks places of interest as you pass them. In addition, you can search for places and launch a host of navigation apps like navigon, Apple Maps and Google maps with the places plotted. In navigon, I just have to hit the start button and I am good to go. Blindsquare even runs in the background and keeps talking so you can multitask on the phone.

I now use a 2 app GPS solution namely Navigon and blindSquare and I have much more information than what I had with Wayfinder Access. My search for a GPS alternative is over.