Walker’s Tools

Picturing One Year on Foot

It starts with Moves, a smartphone app that tracks my every movement, second-by-second, day-by-day. How far I have walked. Where I have run or biked. My destinations and how many times I have visited them. My life in motion, quantified.

Frankly, I rarely open the Moves app. It just runs in the background, non-stop, collecting data and automatically sending it to the cloud. More on that later.

My focus is on Move-O-Scope, a ‘connected app’ that uses the data collected by Moves to create a visual representation of my journeys. In other words, a map with tracks. As of November 24, 2016, I have accumulated 52 weeks of data. The Move-O-Scope screenshots, below, show what that year of walking looks like. Remarkable!  (more…)

Apps To Get Lost With: Trace

Trace is the third in a trio of walking apps that I’m putting to the test. And, yes, it involves a dog.

Compared to Drift or Likeways, Trace calls for a high degree of user interaction with the app and, optionally, collaboration with others using the app.

Developed at the Tactile and Tactical Design Lab (TAT Lab) at the University of Washington., the app was designed to explore the role of GIS (geographic information systems) technology in shifting our walking habits away from efficiency and towards communication and reflection.

It all starts with a sketch drawn on the screen of a smartphone, a simple line drawing that the app then transfers to a mapped route for the walker to follow.

Here’s how it works. (more…)

Apps To Get Lost With: Likeways

The fledgling Likeways app takes a different approach to navigating on foot between point A and point B.

It uses the same map layer as Apple’s Maps application and, when a destination is entered, Likeways will plot the quickest way to get there, just like the Maps app would. This is shown as a grey track…appropriately enough. The real magic comes in the form of a more circuitous blue route and a forest of red push pins clustered along the way. This is the walker’s path of discovery. It’s an opportunity to avoid the drudgery of walking the straight-line, expedient route and, instead, slowing down to explore things of interest along the way. (more…)

Apps To Get Lost With: Drift

Smartphones are very good at getting you from Point A to Point B in the most direct, efficient means possible. Navigation apps abound for this purpose.

But most are geared to those traveling by car. The needs of pedestrians are after-thoughts, if they are thought of at all. And recommended walking routes – on Google Maps, for example – generally follow car routes, albeit quieter streets where possible. Trails and paths are not a part of the navigation database and are are usually ignored.

The most significant downfall of these apps as pedestrian ‘navigational’ tools is that they favour efficiency over exploration.  Yet, the biggest benefit of walking is the ability to wander at will. Walkers can go where they want: take shortcuts through fields, change direction on a dime, follow eyes and noses. Look up and down. Stop. Anywhere.

In short, walkers have the luxury of getting lost. But that can be a hard concept to grasp in a car-culture governed by straight-line navigation between points. The value society places on wandering aimlessly is very low. We compare walk vs. car travel times when we ought to be thinking in terms of discovery and exploration.

Enter a set of smartphone navigation apps designed to get the walker lost. (more…)

Backup A-Go-Go: Review of the Verbatim MediaShare Wireless Thingamajig

Protecting digital image files while on the trail is a tricky proposition. When everything needed for a good long walk must fit in a small backpack – clothing, toiletries, first aid kit, electronics and cameras – weight and space become significant factors. Reduce, minimize, lighten; this is my mantra when filling that pack. Not too difficult if I am just out for a walk. But I’m also a ‘serious photographer’ and those two words have the potential to add endless kilograms to my load, with every additional gram potentially increasing my discomfort level.

I’ve described my camera kit in a previous post and it has not changed substantially since then. So far, that kit has relied on divine intervention to ensure my pictures arrive home un-lost and un-corrupted (good thing our walks tend to be religious pilgrimages!). There is no backup of the thousands of image files on my collection of SD cards. Just the one set of memory cards. Lose one card and I could lose several days of irreplaceable photos. (more…)