Video Streaming on a Motorcycle from a Mobile Phone

This is a live video streamed from a mobile phone while riding a motorcycle. Qik is software that provides a streaming service similar to ustream.tv and others, but is designed specifically for mobile phones. Currently this is limited to a selection of Nokia phones, but there are plans to add more phones.An interesting development in video streaming.

I think this technology combined with “whereness” locative technologies will provide interesting opportunities in recording and sharing biking experiences. The technology appears to be developing rapidly. I wish that the solutions to address privacy and controlling who you share with were maturing as quickly.

This video stream was created by Robin Good

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iPhone & GPS

iphone.jpg

With the success of the iPhone sans GPS, a mad rush has ensued to add GPS or location based services to the current release of iPhones.

Navizon has a product that identifies position based on cell-tower or WiFI access point triangulation and is integrated with the Google Maps in the iPhone. This is not as accurate as GPS and likely useless for turn by turn navigation, but it can identify general vicinity. My initial test from home pinpointed a location about 300m from my home. The Navizon product has a buddy feature to locate people in your buddy list when they are in close proximity to you. There appears to be a tracking utility that is available with the fee based version of Navizon.

Bluetooth GPS “pucks” offer another alternative to get your whereness with the iPhone. Unfortunately the bluetooth capabilities of the iPhone are currently limited to headsets and audio, and will not support pairing with a GPS device.

PartFoundry is developing a GPS device (the locoGPS) that connects to the iPhone with an expected release around the time of the Apple iPhone SDK launch in early March 2008.  This devices provides real GPS tracking and it will be interesting to see what opportunities there are with the SDK to interact with this device. Also, interested to see what that battery consumption will be like.

I’ve now been using the iPhone for a couple months and as they say, “I’ll never go back to a ‘normal’ mobile phone”.  The iPhone is superb at mobile computing with a well designed safari brower interface, great overall usability, integrated phonebook and calender with my MacBook Pro, and enough disk space for all m iPod needs. It does it all, at least most of my mobile computing needs with the exception of GPS.

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Google Maps Route to Garmin Device in GPX format

I’m always looking for ways to create and manage routes that I can then load into a Garmin Zumo and then follow the route through the GPS navigation. The following is an approach that I’m currently using.

Google Maps

Start by creating a route in Google Maps and set your starting and ending address. The new Google Maps feature to set intermediary points helps enormously for plotting a motorcycle route which often is different from the default route.

  1. Create the route with Google Maps
  2. Select “Link to this Page” and append “&output=kml” to the end of the “Paste Link”
  3. Copy the complete URL to your clipboard

Google Earth

After loading the route you may want to edit the content. Ultimately you will use Google Earth to save a static KML file.

  1. Select “Add” and then “Network Link”.
  2. Give your route a name, and then paste the URL created in Google Maps into the “Link” field
  3. Once the route has been added, select it in the “Places” pane, expand the tree, scroll down to the ‘Route’, right click and select “Save As”. Change the format type to KML and save to a local folder with a descriptive file name.

GPS Visualizer (www.gpsvisualizer.com)

  1. Browse to upload the KML file that was created in Google Earth
  2. Select “GPX” as an Output Format and select “GO” to create the GPX file
  3. Right click on the created GPX file and “Save Link As” to a local folder with a descriptive file name.

Mapsource

  1. Select “File” and “Open” and select the GPX file that was created with GPS Visualizer
  2. Right click on the created Route and rename appropriately
  3. Plug in your Garmin Device (tested with a Zumo) and select “Send to Device”

Garmin

  1. Disconnect from the computer and start the Garmin device to complete load steps of GPX files (if supported)
  2. Select the create Route and start the navigation.

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Geoblogging – Map or Journal Centric

Wikipedia currently defines geoblogging as attaching user experience in the form of text and pictures to a specific geographic location denoted through a geotag. With an interest in blogging motorcycle trips Im as interested in the path or track as in the points of interest, and look for supporting solutions. I have not found a well defined and complete solution, but there are interesting developments.

Recently a Google developer released a beta version of GPIsync which loads a GPX file and then searches on a user defined folder of images for date and time information. Once it finds the date/time of an image it references the GPX file, finds the closest lat/lon coordinate, and creates an entry in a KML file that can be easily opened in Google Earth. The results are impressive for a simple geoblog.

The presentation or rendering in Google Earth does prompt the question, Is the primary context of a geoblog the map (as in Google Earth), or is it the journal (as in conventional blogging tools). The GPIsync example presents the track as defined by the GPX file, and the images as icons on the map that can be clicked and opened as a balloon window displaying the actual image. Ive used WordPress for the more conventional journal context.

Another example of a map centric geoblog is by Adam Burt who has used ecto with geospatial extensions and the blogging platform Blojsom. This site provides interesting examples of geoblogging and an overview of several tools.

Flickr has developed a very slick tool to drag and drop your images on a map at the position where the shot was taken. In effect geotagging is a very simple task. Images that have been geocoded are aggregated and displayed for any region that you search on. This is a great way to get a sense of place for a location through images from many different people. There is though limited ability to add stories or display the route or track that you took while taking these photos.

Web based mapping tools and blogging tools may converge, but I tend to think that idea is often more of a sales pitch than a reflection of how this area of functionality is sorting out. I would suggest that standardization and layering of features may be another perspective. For example;

- Data: XML based file “ KML or GPX with extensions
- Recording: GPS devices, Digital Cameras, MP3 Recorders, Blogging tools
- Assembly: ecto, GPISync, Magnalox, Flickr
- Publishing: GeoRSS
- Visualization: GeoRSS Readers, Google Earth, Google Maps, WordPress

I’m doing another motocycle trip in Australia next week, and will be exploring these geoblogging tools in more detail.

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Motomappr Digital Device

What makes a great motocycle trip. I would say viewing great sights, meeting new people, and experiencing the open road on a motorcycle. And really all you need is a bike, a road and places where bikers congregate. Now, new technologies such as cell phones, gps devices and web based motorcycle community sites are changing the experience, and provide new opportunities.
I enjoy touring by motorcycle whether it’s a quick weekend trip, or a few weeks and several thousand kilometers. Recently I’ve started to experiment with various digital devices to help with navigation, communication and trip planning. The following is a rough spec for the motomappr digital device that would enhance the motorcycle touring experience.

1. Single Device with Headset and Visor Display
The device will fall somewhere within the defines of a PDA, GPS, Smartphone or UMPC, and include functionality to be a mobile phone, and GPS device with voice guided navigation through a Bluetooth connected headset in my motorcycle helmet. You will be able to listen to voice navigation, but also be able to switch audio to pre-loaded music, satellite radio, mobile calls incoming and outgoing by voice activation, and audio clips specific to a location.

Voice activated controls will be an important design feature to allow riders to maintain their view of the road and traffic. In addition, visuals will be projected on a small portion of the visor and mapping visuals will be in 3D so that the actual view of the road will be similar to the projected view.

2. Content for Self Guided Tours
Tour companies, tour guides and individual motorcyclists will publish tour guides to the web. These guides will include GPS routes, Points of Interest including sights, accommodation and restaurants, and voice recorded clips that are played based on selecting or triggered based on GPS position. This content will be in a standard format that you can transfer from a web site to a motomappr digital device, or purchase or rent complete in device.

3. Share your Whereness with family and friends
There will be the option of providing secured access to family and friends about where the rider is currently located. This will be in the form of a real-time map of current location viewed through a browser to those that I’ve granted access. It may also be in the form on notification emails, sms, or automatic blog publishing based on preset times or locations.

4. Share your Whereness based on shared interest
Meeting other touring motorcyclists can be extended beyond the chance of immediate physical proximity to the opportunity of knowing the whereabouts of other bikers in a general region. By sharing current and planned location there is the opportunity of determining where paths will cross, or planning meet ups at specified locations.

There would be a need for secure control of information. You may want to share certain details with family and friends, but only some location information with a “shared interest audience”. This shared interest audience would also need to be validated before location information is shared. One scenario is that riders publish their trip plans, and visitors to a web site can request location information. The requester could then be validated by the user based on viewing digital profile of participation in forums, social network sites like facebook, or other references.

5. Release Date?
There are examples of most of the technologies, software and communication services noted, but the integration of these components into a single device and service does not currently exist and may be a while before it hits the market. Likely plenty of time for prototyping.

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Mapping your Blog

Very interesting method of giving your blog “whereness”.

If your blog entries are specific to a location, you can now, with relative ease, display your entries on a map based on location information. Google maps now supports GeoRSS. Geonames has a web service that will geocode location information (any address) in an RSS feed and output a GeoRSS file that can then be searched within Google maps and map the results. Simply edit the following with your feed address.

http://ws.geonames.org/rssToGeoRSS?feedUrl=http://www.myRSSfeed.com/

Then enter this into the Google maps search, and blog entries will be displayed on a map. This works if you have location information, such as “Toronto, Ontario” in your blog entry, or as meta data. I’ve added the GeoPress WordPress plugin, and have entered location information in the location field, when it is not part of the blog.

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Geoblogging a Motorcycle Trip

I blogged my recent trip in Australia over here. My plan was to test out various geoblogging technologies; Garmin Zumo GPS, Scala Rider bluetooth headset, iPaq GPRS with Magnalox client and server software. I envisioned riding through the country with a real-time KML file published on the blog and links to route a call to my headset through Skype forewarded to a local mobile number. I shared this plan prior to this trip, and interestingly several commented on their concern if the save the live feed stop moving.

In the end it was moot. Setup of the GPS with a hardwire connection to the motorcycle battery took about an hour, and anxious to get on the road, I deferred the additional hardwire connection of a power supply for the iPaq (I never completed this task, and relied on battery power alone). The Garmin Zumo worked well, especially through the city of Sydney. I did use the POI search for gas and lodging, and was able to target a motel for one night using this feature. Finding a gas station by searching for fuel stops worked, but did not list all the gas stations. This is good fortune, as in one case I don’t think I would have made it to the published gas station location.

The Scala Rider headset was very helpful for voice navigation from the Zumo. This was my first experience using a GPS on a bike, and I now can’t imagine doing it without the voice navigation feature. I tested the connection to the mobile phone and found the quality of voice communication to be excellent when stopped at the side of the road. While travelling it was inhibited by wind noise. I plan to do additional testing to see if there is a better configuration to avoid the peripheral noise.

Without setting up a hardwire connection to the iPaq, I unfortunately did not activate the live feeds to be published to a KML file. I’ve tested this functionality in the past and has worked well.

My intentions was to have the live feeds stored, converted to GPX format and published to my blog. Without the live feeds, I did the plotting and publishing of routes with a series of tools. I started with Google Earth and plotted a route by using the directions feature. If my route was not clear city to city, I would do a series for plots. I would then save these “places” (routes) as a KML file and convert using GPX Visualizer. If there were a couple GPX files, I would splice them together with an editor. To publish with Google Maps, I used the exising API key that I had for motomappr.com, and loaded up the GPX Viewer script. I added a variable to pass a file name, and then simply loaded the GPX files into a folder on my blog and used an iframe setting to integrate into a blog entry. This worked well thanks to the great script work at notions.okuda.ca. As noted the blog is over here.

It was a great trip and excellent roads on the east side of Australia. I hope to be back soon and do further testing with these tools.

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Australian Motorcycle Trip

Australia

In the final stages of preparation for a trip to Australia this week. Last year I tested the software at magnalox.net that, while riding on my motorcycle, allowed me to record real-time tracking of my GPS position through an HP iPaq Smartphone/GPS and transmit to a web app through the phones data network connection. The web application then dynamcially publishes to a Google Earth or Google Maps file.

This magnalox/loxtrax application is a great example of a locative mobile application, or location based service that can run on a Windows Mobile PDA with acces to GPS data and some type of data network for transmission to the web. Another interesting Windows Mobile PDA/GPS app is Smart2Go, which allows you to load maps, record and share points of interest, and optionally purchase navigation or other locative type services.

To run either of these applications effectively in Australia, I’ll need a local mobile carrier to provide a GPRS, or other type of carrier data network to connect to a web based application. For both Magnalox and Smart2Go, there are options to download or upload data through different types of connections (ie GPRS, WiFi, UMTS…), and a different times, ie real or near time, or once a day. This flexible architecture to run “on-board” or “off-board” may become more common as developers of mobile applications look for technologies that allow their applications to not always be dependant on the carriers private data networks.

Hopefully with an Austrialian SIM chip from Telstra (local mobile provider), I’ll transmit in real or near time. This trip I’ll be more wired with a bluetooth headset, Garmin ZUMO gps, and iPaq smartphone, and plan to publish a web page of the daily routes and tracking my progress.

I have weather widgets on my desktop and its been consistently -10c locally, and consistently +24c in Sydney Australia, so its not hard to imagine that I’m looking forward to this trip for several reasons.

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Motorcycle Touring – Old & New Media

Time Magazine named “You” as person of the year in recognition of web 2.0 user generated content sites like YouTube, Flickr, and MySpace. The idea that content and ideas are now increasingly coming from the edge more than from the center is impacting all forms of tradtional media including magazines, newspapers, television, radio and movies. How exactly it is impacted is unclear at this stage, but there is no shortage of discussion on this topic.

How will the “content” around motorcycle touring be addressed with new media is a question I’d like to explore. Two good examples from traditional media are Road Runner magazine, and the upcoming tv series 2 Wheel Passport

For motorcycling touring, Road Runner is the leading magazine publication with well written articles, trip logs, as well as great images. The web site for Road Runner is simple in layout and easy to find information. Although the content depth and media quality does not match the magazine. There is an area for readers or web visitors to upload trip information, including stories and images. This appears to be a starting point for “user generated content” but the tools, type of content, and display quality are limited. Currently, few may be interested in this feature on this web site, or it could be challenging to introduce content that potentially competes with the core content of the magazine, but if the the interest and activity around sharing motorcycle tour information on web bike forums is an indication of the future, there is an opportunity for Road Runner to become more connected with its community.

2 Wheel Passport is a television series where each show looks at a motorcycle tour, trip or related feature on the touring experience. This series was originally produced in 2003 in the UK for the Men & Motors channel, and is now planned for production in the US. There have been reports that shows will be available on your iPod, and trip maps in GPX format to load on your GPS. A casting all went out in the fall for motorcyclists to participate in the show, and share their experience and knowledge of specific routes around the US. This is user generated content, but I would guess in a reality-show way where the locations, destinations, and rough scripts may be established prior to the local rider bringing some personality to the episode. Conjecture for sure, and will be very interested to see this show once it appears presumably later in 2007.

Will new media around the niche of motorcycle touring be evolutionary out of traditional media players, or will new providers emerge. Difficult to say at this stage. Looking the larger broad market providers, BBC and New York Times have done a decent job with the challenge of new media in the, but consider MySpace, Flickr, YouTube, and Blogger do not look, feel or function like anything from traditional media.

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Its all in your helmet

New audio and visual technologies are changing the nature of motorcycling, with the ability to listen to music on your media player, take calls through your mobile phone, watch your speed on a display projected on your visor, and look behind you with an in-helmet rear view mirror, all accomplished with devices within your motorcycle helmet.

Bluetooth technology facilitates the use of headsets that are either installed into an existing helmet (Scala Rider), or come integrated in a helmet (Nolan, BMW and Dainese). Through controls on the helmet you can receive calls, or through voice activation, if supported by your mobile phone, make outgoing calls. In addition, the headsets could be connected to a bluetooth supported media player for music, or to a pillion also with a bluetooth headset. Some GPS devices now integrate with bluetooth, and can manage the switch from listening to voice navigation to receiving a phone call.

While these new helmet based audio technologies may impact the safety of riding your motorcycle, there are new devices that should increase overall safety. The Reevu helmet has a built-in rear view mirror. The design is quite ingenious in how a series of mirrors are used to bring the view behind you to a mirror that sits inside your helmet above your direct eye level. To minimize looking down at the instrument controls on your motorcycle, SportVue has a device that attaches to the top of your helmet, wirelessly communicates with a controls on your bike, and projects your speed and gear selection onto your visor. Sportvue has also noted that GPS could be part of their device in the future.

I find it exciting to see all these new “gadgets” and expect that we are at the early stage of the curve for adoption. It will challenge the nature of motorcycling, but I think in a good way. Placing more controls and communication devices within your helmet can provide safer riding and a different riding experience. There are of course certain roads, times or the day, or places where you may not want any of this potential interference. So the most important feature in these new devices will be the ability to turn them off.

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Inexpensive GPS devices and Ubiquitous data networks

What will be the outcome of the growing market of inexpensive GPS devices and ubiquitous data network access? Well, Location Based Services (LBS) of course. The real question is what shape and form will these services take. The source of ideas could come from simply extending the functionality of GPS devices and from introducing models of behaviour that emerged on the web. A few to consider.

Advertising: What could be better than provide an advertisement based on where someone is located, especially if you know something about the person. The challenge though is that consumers are averse to interruption type selling when they are forced to view content based on their location. Billboards on the highway are clearly of this type. I’ve read that market research indicates this aversion, but at the same time identifies the huge appetite for information. So if the individual can search/select the information that they want as opposed to having it pushed to them, then there will be more success in this market. Great potential and great challenges.

Telemetics: The monitoring of assets through GPS devices has been around for a while and is a maturing market for companies focussed on identifying the location of their fleet, their goods, or any other physical assets that have an important spatial component. This domain has creeped into the area on monitoring of people whether its your children or teenagers, and exerting some control on where they are, how fast they are driving etc. This may have practical value, but clearly there are privacy issues and major sociological implications that may not all be positive.

Traffic: A natural extension of using a GPS device for navigation is using the device for efficient navigation. Delivery of traffic information, and 2 way updates of traffic status, will assist with providing better navigation options. The Dash Express device, the new Garmin device with Microsoft SPOT technology, and the beta Microsoft Windows Live Search, are all looking at methods to deliver this information to people travelling the roads with their GPS.

Social Networks: What if I could identify where my family and friends are located at any time. Then I could engage in various social activities based on proximity or near vicinity. This uses technology to extend the view of where my friends and family are located. Sounds appealing, but I question the scope and capability of the technology. Currently for these type of systems to work, all of my friends and family often must be on the same cellular phone service, and have compatible phone devices. And, I wonder if this market is limited to those with a good amount of free time on their hands. Might be great to co-ordinate friends on congregating at a specific club or outing, but I’m still thinking of other opportunities.

Community Networks: Communities on the web typically form around a common interest. What if that common interest is spatial. If I’m a motorcyclist, a RV traveller, or a conference hoping academic, I would be interested in knowing if my travels cross with others with similar interests or profile. Communities of interest could be enhanced to center around location to initiate face to face interaction, or simply to share information about the space. The biggest challenge for this type of service is critical mass to enable opportunity for interactions around location and to adequately aggregate special interests. There are many providers of very simple community LBS commonly delivered with route/itinerary planning, but few strong market leaders at this stage.
I forgot to mention maps and technologies, or maybe not. It appears that good maps are readily available, and while there are big challenges in the area of GPS data capture, transformation, distribution, sharing and aggregation, the infrastructure around geospatial technologies is developing and there exists currently a good foundation to initiate some of the models noted above.

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Sharing Motorcycle Routes on the Web

http://www.advrider.com
Sites that share information about favorite motorcycle routes have been around for a while, and often integral to a motorcycle forum. Now, with much hoopla around social network sites, user generated content and growth of the market for GPS devices, web sites with shareable route data files (most standardize on the GPX format) are becoming more common. Here are a few examples.

Adventure Rider: Mature motorcycle forum with GPX file sharing – excellent discussion/community
Grouprider: Full featured forum/social network site well designed route plotter
Bike.stu.ph: A simple site with easy to load and share route data in various formats
GPS Motoriders: Forum type site with some interesting content
Moto where: From down under with mostly Australian and New Zealand Content
Best Biking Roads: Appears to have started in UK, many routes and excellent conten
GPS Xchange: Bare bones, simple forum entries for shared gpx files

In terms or sharing route data, these sites are early stage and have features that reflect their origins whether open-source forum software, custom content sharing site, or a google mapper site. Some of the sites have quirky user interfaces, while others appear to be poorly designed for content sharing. Also, I’m surprised that travel blogging functionality has not appeared, but would expect this to be the next generation functionality for a few of these sites. An example of a feature rich travel blogging site is Travel Pod, which is a bit rough on the user interface but clearly matured in terms of functionality. This site could be used by motorcyclists, but does not currently have the GPX route sharing functionality.

Its great to see the interest by many in building route sharing sites, and in the loading of routes by the motorcycle community. Many appear similar and I wonder if these type of sites will become more focussed on niche markets such as “only for BMW tourers”, or will a few will the popular for use for a range of motorcycling interests.  I’m certainly looking at these sites carefully in determining the direction for motomappr.com.

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Mobile Applications – Open or Closed

I was at the CES 2007 show in Las Vegas last week and attended some interesting sessions on mobile computing. While there was much discussion about new smartphones, user created content, and mobile social networking, a key theme to me was the difference in openness between the PC / Internet market and the Mobile Phone / Carrier Network market.I’ve come to expect a level of standardization in PC hardware and IP networks that has allowed software developers to more easily develop and deploy to a range of platforms.

This is not the case with Mobile computing, and it could be a significant constraint in the development of mobile applications and content. From Blackberrys to Samsung BlackJacks to Nokia phones, the operating system and development platform are not standardized. Control over this platform is also an issue. Apple has noted that while the iPhone runs OS X, it will not be open to development without the consent or control of Apple. Its difficult to understand how social network applications will thrive on this platform when there currently is limited interoperability between different phone types. Well, at least people can phone each other.
Then there are the phone carriers who invested in and own the networks that deliver content to mobile devices through GPRS, Edge, etc. I heard grumblings about these closed networks inhibiting innovation and I would have to agree.

The final note on this stream of negativity is that the battery power for smartphones struggles to get through an entire day when using applications. Note – use WiFi and GPS sparingly.

I saw many exciting new products and ideas and will continue to dream of a phone/media player/gprs running over WiFi for at least 8 hours and containing applications independent of the carrier and device maker. Now that would be cool. I don’t think though this will all occur in the next year.

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Zumo 550 & GPX Routes

The relatively warm December weather has allowed me to test the new Garmin Zumo 550 over the last few weeks. The large controls and simple user interface make it easy to operate. My real interest was in how to to upload, download and create GPX files to organize a trip with a series of routes.

A Zumo connected to your PC by USB will appear as a device with a folder \Garmin\gpx. To upload a GPX file, you copy the file to this folder. Then, disconnect the USB connection. The device will start up and identify the new file loaded, and prompt you to “manage” the data. By importing the data, a route will be created that can then be selected for navigation.

To download a GPX file, you copy the file Current.gpx from the \Garmin\gpx folder to your PC. You can then edit the file, that contains the Trip Log (all recent tracks), as well as routes that you currently have in your device, and reload or share with others.

The GPX file format is clearly the standard for at least sharing motorcycle routes, and I was hoping to find more open standard tools to edit GPX files. Fortunately, or unfortunately (a proprietary tool), the Garmin Mapsource product does a decent job of working with GPX files and manipulating, tracks, routes, and waypoints. A very nice feature in Mapsource is the Recalculate Route function that can take a GPX route that you may have downloaded, containing only a few points, and the Recalc will align the route to the closest road.

This GPS device is also impressive in its support of bluetooth (for mobile phone and headset connections), and an MP3 player. For all things Zumo and great discussion, check out this forum at Razorbiker. With more touring discussion and context for the Zumo, you can review the threads at Adventure Rider.

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GPS Tourism


Combine a GPS device with a map and location specific audio and images, and you have makings of GPS Tourism, or in other terms a virtual tour guide. Several companies have emerged to provide solutions where you walk, ride or drive with a device that provides navigation instructions and local information of interest, or narration.

There are a number of interesting variations on how this functionality is delivered from portable conventional GPS/PDA combinations (City Show, GyPSy Guide,…) to integrated vehicles with GPS/Audio/Image technolgies in New York, San Francisco, and Montgomery Alabama (Intellitours, Gocar,…), to integrated personal media players with real-time WiFi content delivery (Node Explorer). Many of these solutions focus on the popular tourist areas, notably cities and city regions.

I would be interested to see content provided for motorcycle tours, and possibly by motorcycle tour companies. While riding our bikes through Wyoming a couple years back, we stopped by chance at an historic site that told the history of the Oregon Trail that was used for much of the east-west wagon train migration in the 19th century. It was interesting to view the maps, and learn this history, but it would have been even more compelling to listen to this history while travelling on parts of the actual trail.

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