GPS? Oh Yes!

So tell me, am I the only oddball with like eight different GPS apps on my iPhone? Well, there’s a lot of practical reason for this. They all do slightly different things, and I can usually benefit from each at its own time.

Google Maps: This one suddenly got a lot better than it had been when I first looked. Now, it’s about on the level of Google’s map on the computer. I love the ease with which I can plug in restaurants and actually view their menus. Also being able to see a comprehensive list of places nearby finally breaks me out of the difficulty I’ve so often had in deciding where we should eat when out with a friend, an issue that has often irked said friends!

Yesterday, in fact, I’d taken a look at a lot of our local eateries as I attempted to decide where I and one of my former grad school classmates would go. I wanted to eat at Piedmont Restaurant, but some of their entrees went for $27! Also, they seemed not to have a whole lot of options. So, I ended up going with Texas Roadhouse. I wanted more of that delicious Country-fried Chicken. She had chosen pulled pork at first, but they’d run out of it. How often does a restaurant run out of one of its main menu items? So she had to settle for barbecue chicken.

And man was it loud in there, and it seemed the servers were celebrating birthdays every 3 minutes. There was also some kind of odd musical performance of which my friend was audibly relieved when it ended.

To get to that restaurant, I opted to use MapQuest. This is because while I like Google Maps for many things, I’m not yet sure how well I trust its directions yet. As I noted when I’d had someone take me to the Greyhound station to begin my Christmas vacation, Google Maps didn’t always tell me whether we were to turn left or right onto major thoroughfares. I figured the less frustration, the better.

Well, sort of. In returning home, I decided to try Seeing Eye GPS, the blindness-specific app about which I wrote back in July. I have to say that it performs a lot better now, I’m guessing due both to the fact that I now have a 4S which is better than a 4, and that they’ve probably made quite a few modifications.

The main reason I’d chosen to use it was that you can just press the button labeled “Go Home,” and it’ll take you to the place you’ve saved in that slot. Figuring out how to tell people this apartment’s address has always vexed me, since half of the people over here aren’t even sure just what it is. I can say just enter at 311 South LaSalle St, which is near the leasing office, and come on back; but sometimes that can throw people not particularly familiar with my neighborhood.

Things went well with that app, for the most part. VoiceOver tends to read most of the information though, and can sometimes oververbalize the street names. Plus I’m not sure it told us which direction we needed to go when getting on 15-501, meaning that we ended up taking one exit up to North Gate Mall, then riding back to my place on street level like the bus does. It was interesting though, because Seeing Eye called out a lot of the area businesses and every street we crossed. She also laughed at the silly sounds it makes: a turn signal when you should turn, and a three-part ascending chime when the next set of directions are to be followed.

I’ve also found out that another app, a free one no less, does a pretty good job at describing street layouts and will even point out local businesses as we pass. This one deals with transit specifically and is called Rider. It comes from a company called Transloc, and it works by connecting with your local transit agency and telling you which buses can be caught in your area. It can even give alerts for up to five minutes before a bus is to arrive at your stop.

I’m not sure with how many agencies this works currently, but they said on Twitter that they’re constantly trying to expand their presence and so if it doesn’t yet work where you are and you want it to, call your agency and ask. I liked the app well enough, though it seemed to be an even bigger battery drain than GPS units usually are. So I’d just have to be juiced up well before boarding if I wanted to use it.

And speaking of battery drain, I’ll talk about my favorite activity to do of probably anything I do with the phone, play with the maps feature on Ariadne GPS. I believe this one is a blindness-specific program too, but I’m not entirely sure on that. In any event, it does work well with VoiceOver. I love putting in cities nearby and farflung and moving my finger around the screen to discover things. It has special sounds that indicate water, very relaxing, a park or more naturalistic setting, also very relaxing, train tracks I think?, and a couple of other sounds indicating things of which I’m not entirely certain. It also, if you move your finger slowly enough, makes the sound of the character walking in what sounds like high heels. I find that amusing.

Because of this app, I finally know the answers to some questions that have always confounded me.

How is the UK laid out? Scotland is to the north of England, Wales to the west, and Ireland across the Irish sea farther to the west. There is also a body of water called the Celtic sea, I think a bit to the south of the Irish sea. Then going east from London is Esses, and to the southeast Dover and the English Channel.

I explored Egypt and its relation to the Red Sea, which lies to the East, and the Mediterranean, which is north of the country. Looking at Japan was interesting, because only the universities were labeled in English. This activity is so fascinating to me though, and when I get wrapped up in it I can go for hours.

A little of my weirdness, but perhaps one of life’s simple pleasures too. I actually hope that some of this information is helpful to other individuals who are blind, or anyone else for that matter. More later.

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