Survival and success depend on good orientation skills. This fact especially challenges people who are blind, because they must use only auditory and tactile queues to determine their position. For thousands of years, people used landmarks and line-of-sight to return home after a long day on the hunt, but these techniques became less effective the further they traveled. Eventually, explorers discovered consistent heavenly bodies that could aid with orientation. Sailors kept, for example, a constellation on the left side of the ship. They could use this technique to reliably travel hundreds of miles. Within the last few centuries, specialized instruments have been developed to aid in position calculations. Lewis and Clark used such tools to map the Louisiana Purchase. Nevertheless, it took several hours, and an intimate knowledge of the instruments and techniques to take a measurement, then, when the trip was complete, others calculated the measurements to determine the actual position of each measurement.
With the introduction of the Global Positioning System (GPS) in the last few decades, the power to quickly and accurately determine your place on earth, with no training, is available to anyone. When combined with an accessible interface and customizable and current information about points of interest (POIs), the tools provide a compelling picture of the vicinity and its characteristics.
The tools provided by Nearby Explorer (NE) make independent travel for blind pedestrians and passengers efficient, informative, and fun. Knowledge of your surroundings empowers you to explore, discover, and enjoy your own neighborhood and beyond with poise and confidence.
This video overview demonstrates some of the features available on Nearby Explorer.
The information that Nearby Explorer provides helps the blind traveler stay oriented. It shows surrounding and approaching streets, businesses, institutions, and public facilities, and offers continually updating distance and directional information to the nearest or selected location.
It provides a sense of the surrounding streets and their relationship to the user's current position.
It enables the blind passenger in a vehicle to aid the driver with directions and suggestions.
Below is a list of some of the services Nearby Explorer has to offer:
This documentation was complete and accurate at the time of its writing. When there are updates or corrections, you may find them at http://tech.aph.org/ne_info.htm.
There is also an email list dedicated to the use of this app. Many knowledgeable users and developers are on the list, and it is a great place to make suggestions, provide tips, and ask questions.
To subscribe to the list, send a blank email message to firstname.lastname@example.org.
While it is tempting to assume that location based software, such as Nearby Explorer, solves all the navigation and orientation barriers faced by blind travelers, there are a number of conditions that must be considered. To better appreciate these benefits and limitations, it is useful to obtain a basic understanding of how the technology works.
There are several components in play.
The device uses a global positioning system (GPS) receiver to read signals sent from an array of satellites designed for this purpose. The receiver uses these signals to pinpoint a position on earth and assign lateral and longitudinal coordinates to that position. In general, a good consumer-grade receiver can render accuracy to within a few yards of a person's actual position under optimal conditions. More realistically, you can expect to achieve accuracy, most of the time, good enough to determine on which side of the street you are traveling.
Some of the conditions that adversely affect accuracy with reading satellite signals include the following:
The latitude and longitude coordinates do not mean much to most users, so they must be combined with maps that contain more familiar landmarks such as streets and places. Nearby Explorer comes equipped with maps that cover the United States and Canada.
There are several factors about the map data that are useful to understand to make the most effective use of the software:
You must pay attention to your environment. The data given from Nearby Explorer are suggestions, not absolute facts. The present conditions and immediate environment must always take precedence over NE's suggestions.
There is a TV commercial where the driver of an automobile crashes into a wall after his GPS says, "Turn Right" only to be followed by "in one hundred yards." While the commercial might seem comical, paying attention to your environment is a serious matter.
Nearby Explorer requires (1) a device running Android 2.3 or later, (2) a device with a GPS chip or the ability to connect to an external GPS receiver, and (3) at least 3.7 GB of free space on the device's memory or external SD card for map storage.
The steps in this manual refer to devices that let you navigate through lists and options by using arrow keys. If your device does not have arrow keys, use the normal procedures for touching appropriate list items or scrolling through the list.
Nearby Explorer requires the GPS chip to be turned on. Turn the GPS chip off only if you never or rarely use any GPS services. When not in use, its power consumption is minimal.
To turn the chip on or off, follow these steps:
When the GPS chip is in use, such as when using Nearby Explorer, battery consumption is significantly increased. It is necessary, in fact, to plug in the device if using it on a long trip, where the GPS is in use for more than several hours at a time.
It is recommended that you purchase a charger adapter that plugs into the auxiliary (aux) power in an automobile. These chargers have a slot to plug in the USB host end of the charging cable. If aux power is not available and you use the GPS for more than 6 hours, you may use an aux charger that contains its own batteries.
To pause the GPS power consumption, press Back until Nearby Explorer closes, or select Pause to shut down the GPS chip.
Using an external GPS receiver can improve accuracy and reduce battery consumption. The disadvantage, of course, is having to keep up with, carry, and charge another device. Often, though, it is worth it.
To use an external GPS receiver on Android devices, you must "trick" Android into using something other than the device's internal receiver. This is accomplished with the use of a program to read a receiver and put its values in a mock location for the operating system.
There are three steps to set up the use of an external receiver: (1) go to Settings / Applications / Development and check Allow Mock Locations, (2) turn on Bluetooth and pair with the GPS receiver, and (3) go to Settings / Wireless and Networks / Bluetooth and check the Bluetooth checkbox to turn on the Bluetooth radio.
If you use Android 4.0 or later, the steps to use an external GPS receiver are slightly different: (1) go to Settings and scroll down to the System category, (2) turn on Developer Options and select OK, and (3) select Allow Mock Locations.
Once Bluetooth is on, pair the receiver to your device as follows:
Once you complete this initial setup, use an app to read the GPS receiver and put its location readings in the Mock Locations area. One such program that comes installed on the Braille Plus 18 is BlueGPS. If you are not using the Braille Plus 18, go to the Android Play Store and search for External GPS Provider.
Setting up the app for use with your receiver depends on the app you use. In BlueGPS, let the Android device know which receiver to use by starting the program and selecting Choose Bluetooth Device. Pick your receiver from this list of paired devices. You will only need to do this procedure once, unless you choose to switch to another receiver at a later time.
Once set-up is finished, to start using the GPS receiver (1) turn on the receiver and (2) Start Blue GPS or other Bluetooth GPS provider software and select the option to Start/Stop using the receiver. You will select this option again to turn off the receiver.
If you are using the Braille Plus 18, Nearby Explorer is already installed. Most other users will install Nearby Explorer from the Play Store.
If you do not install Nearby Explorer from the Play Store, you will need to allow the Non-Market Applications. To do this, follow these steps:
When you start Nearby Explorer for the first time, it displays licensing information that should be read carefully. If you understand and agree with the terms, click the OK button to continue.
If the app detects it has no map data, NE checks to ensure there is a Wi-Fi connection and downloads the maps.
If your phone contains more than one Secure Digital (SD) card, Nearby Explorer displays a dialog asking you to choose the SD card on which to install the maps.
You may use the app while maps download, but only limited functionality is available until the download is completed.
When you start the application, Nearby Explorer displays the Nearby screen and waits for positioning information from the GPS. If this is the first time the GPS chip in your device is used since the last reset, it may take several minutes to acquire a valid signal. The process to obtain a signal is called a "fix" as in fixing your position. The initial fix time is aided by using cell network information to obtain a general location. While the network method to fix your position is fast, it is not as accurate as the fix obtained from satellites. The Provider item in the Nearby screen shows where positioning information is obtained.
If your device does not obtain a satellite fix, there are some alternatives you may employ to improve the chances of acquiring a good signal:
The Nearby screen provides information about your current position. You use it in one of two ways:
The items you check depend on how you wish to use the program.
Nearby Explorer remembers the checked items, so when you close and then open the app again, your previously checked items are still checked.
While walking in an unfamiliar area, it is useful to check the street address, street name, and possibly the nearest point of interest (POI) and the distance to the nearest POI. However, if you are riding in a car, it may be too much to have street numbers announced, and it is almost certainly too much to have distances to POIs announced.
You will likely want information that changes very infrequently to be checked. For example, City, County, State, and Provider are items that change so infrequently that you may wish to leave them checked at all times.
It is important to keep "chatter" to a minimum. Since most of the information from the Nearby screen is time sensitive, it is not useful to have too much verbal communication. By the time you hear it, it would no longer be relevant.
To stop using Nearby Explorer, select Back to exit the program.
The available items on the Nearby screen include the following:
In addition to checking the items to monitor by pressing Select, you may hold Select to show a menu of options related to the Nearby screen. These options let you bookmark positions, start guidance, and perform other actions on the current position. These options are discussed shortly.
You may also select the list item, Show/Hide, to customize what appears on the main screen.
As the program starts, it attempts to obtain good satellite reception to accurately fix your position. During the recovery process, the speech to text may sound like your position is changing. This is especially apparent if you have the Heading, Street Address, and Street Name boxes checked. As the fix becomes more accurate, NE announces the changing addresses. This process usually takes only a moment or two. If the process is bothersome, use Up Arrow or Down Arrow to silence the speech until the position stabilizes.
The following sections explain the options on the Nearby screen. Some options, such as State or City, are self-explanatory and are not covered with a separate section.
The Provider option presents information about where Nearby Explorer is getting its positioning information. GPS is the most accurate, but sometimes, a GPS signal is not available. In such cases, the source is the network; either Wi-Fi or cell data.
When NE first opens, it receives its initial position from the network. Once the GPS chip is turned on and acquires satellite readings, the Provider switches to GPS.
When you use the compass, NE shows the provider as Compass.
When the Heading item on the Nearby screen is checked, NE announces the heading and continually updates it as you move. This heading is derived by comparing the location of the last reading with the position of the current reading. This means that in order to get a heading from GPS, you must be moving.
The Heading tells you the direction in which you are moving. Nearby Explorer uses that information to determine which streets you are approaching. When you stop moving, the heading becomes blank
In addition to obtaining heading information from the GPS, it is possible to use the compass to announce the direction you are facing.
To use the compass to obtain a direction, hold the device vertically and point the camera in the desired direction, as if you were using the device to take a picture. Nearby Explorer responds by giving a confirmation tone and announcing the direction as obtained from the device's compass.
In addition to the direction, the compass can also announce a list of streets that intersect a line (representing the street on which you are traveling) in the direction you point the device. To enable this feature, check the Street checkbox on the Nearby screen.
As you point the device in another direction, the compass speech function silences, vibrates, and then announces the new information about direction and streets.
To stop using the compass for heading information, move the device so it is no longer oriented vertically. NE responds with another confirmation tone and proceeds to obtain the heading information from the GPS.
Note: The compass only works while Nearby Explorer is the program in use. This lets you use the phone or other software without any concerns about the device's orientation.
Note: All other functions of Nearby Explorer remain active, even when you start another program.
To disable the compass, go to Menu/More/Settings and uncheck the Allow Compass Mode option.
The compass can be effected by magnets or large metal objects. When the compass data becomes invalid, Nearby Explorer responds with "Shake" to indicate that it may be necessary to shake the device to reset the compass. Normally, moving away from metal objects is enough to reset the compass. When it resets, NE announces, "Compass OK" or "Compass Fair."
The Street Number option on the Nearby screen provides the closest house number of the current position. As you move, the number changes to reflect the new, current address.
Nearby Explorer normally calculates street addresses by dividing a block into equal segments and assigning a number to each segment. There are cases where this approach can report a number that is one or two houses away from the actual address. Take the example of a large business that occupies an entire block. While its published address might be 900 Main Street, As you walk down the block, Nearby Explorer gladly reports 900, 902, 904, all the way to the official end of block which will normally be 998.
Nearby Explorer offers an alternative method of obtaining a street address that can be more reliable than the estimation method it normally employs. This alternative uses the Google services to report the number. Remember, however, that this works only if you have a network connection. To use the alternative method, check the "Use Google for Street Addresses" option in the Settings screen.
The Street Name option displays the street on which the user is currently traveling. If this item is checked, a street's name is announced when you turn onto another street or when you enter a cross street.
When approaching a cross street, depending on the accuracy of the GPS signal, NE announces the cross street's name as you enter the street. Inaccurate signals may make it announce the cross street either before or after you enter or leave the street crossing.
To constantly update your street address while walking, check both the Street Number and Street Name boxes. As you walk, NE announces the street address but not the street name (because the street name is not changing). With both boxes checked, when you approach and pass a cross street, the app announces the name of the street and the closest house number on that street. Often, NE announces an address from each side of the cross street as you pass it. The first is the closest house number on the side of the street on which you are traveling. As you cross, NE announces the second number which is the closest house number on the far side of the street.
As you turn onto another street, Nearby Explorer announces the name of that street as soon as it recognizes the new coordinates. This usually occurs within a few seconds of the turn.
The street number and name announcements are two of the best ways to obtain the most detailed information about your location. When combined with a Nearby Places address, which is also approximated, you can easily determine on which side of the street you are traveling and on which side the desired destination is located.
Note that poor GPS reception can result in misinformation, such as addresses located on the wrong side of the street. If this happens, avoid setting any Favorites until you obtain a better signal, and keep in mind the inaccuracies.
If you are not near a street, Nearby Explorer appends a distance and direction to the nearest address. For example, if you turn south into a parking lot at 100 Main St. and move away from the street, the program adds a message, such as "29 yards north", to the street name announcement. In this way as you move south, away from Main St., the program announces the address as "Main St. 29 yards north." This additional information about the distance and direction is useful to determine the route back to the road network in a park, parking lot, or other open area.
Occasionally, even though you are on a street, the program may announce the street name as if you were away from the street. This usually occurs from a poor satellite signal and ordinarily corrects itself unless atmospheric conditions are extremely poor.
If you do not want to know about how far away from the street you really are, you may turn this off by holding the Street option on the Nearby screen and unchecking the Off-Road option on the context menu that appears.
In many US cities, the city is divided into quadrants with a street separating the north from the south quadrant and a street separating the east from the west quadrant. Any street that is west of the east/west line often contains "W" in the name to indicate that it is west of the dividing line between east and west. Similarly, streets east of the east/west line often contain "E" in the name. The addresses begin at the east/west line and increase as they move away from it in either direction. Thus, if the east/west dividing line is Main Street, and Maple Street intersects Main, the addresses west of Main would start with 100 and increase as you move west. 400 W. Maple Street is west of 300 W. Maple Street. Similarly, the addresses east of Main increase as you move east, so 200 E. Maple Street is east of 100 E. Maple Street.
Often a block starts with an address such as 100 or 200 and increases to 99 before the next block begins, so addresses on a typical block range from numbers such as 100 to 199 or 200 to 299. Of course, if a street is particularly long, the street numbers might be a range of five digit numbers such as 26800 to 26899.
Even-numbered addresses are on one side of the street, and odd numbers are on the other side. Usually, 200 is straight across the street from 201. In most cases, the even-numbered addresses fall on the south and west sides of a street, and the odd-numbered addresses fall on the north and east sides.
Interstates and highways indicate their prevailing direction by their route number. All the even-numbered interstates and highways generally travel from east to west, and odd-numbered interstates and highways go from north to south.
Even numbered interstates (east/west) are numbered smallest to largest, starting in the south and increasing to 100 as you move north. For example, Interstate 10 is the southernmost interstate. It runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles. I-20 is north of I-10 and runs from Kent, Texas to Florence, South Carolina.
Odd numbered interstates (north/south) are numbered lowest to highest starting from the west coast and increasing as you move east. I-5 is on the west coast, and I-95 is on the east coast.
When a city has an interstate that routes traffic circuitously around the heart of the city, the interstate is given a three-digit number in the 200, 400, or 600 range. It derives its number from the interstate that it branches from. In Dallas, for example, the LBJ Freeway is numbered I-635 because it loops around Dallas branching from I-35.
Interstates are marked with mile markers, one every mile. Mile markers on an interstate begin at the border of each new state. They start with zero at the southern border and increase as you move north for odd numbered or north/south interstates. They start with zero at the western border of the state increasing as you move east for the even numbered or east/west routes.
If an interstate does not start at the state's border, the mile markers begin numbering at the start of the interstate.
Normally, you would expect that the street address of a location on an interstate would be the mile marker number. Nearby Explorer currently contains a bug that returns a street number for interstates that are close to the street numbers of nearby streets.
The exits on an interstate are indicated by the mile marker. Exit 5 is always located between mile marker 5 and 6. If there are two or more exits within a mile, their designation includes both the mile marker and a suffix letter. If there were three exits at marker 5, they would be labeled 5A, 5B, and 5C.
When you see exits in the map data, they are treated like streets, but the street name is the exit number. Therefore, it is not uncommon to have streets entering and exiting the interstate with names such as 8 or 8A.
Interstates are named with "I-" followed by the interstate number. I-40 E refers to the eastbound lanes of Interstate 40.
US highways are labeled with the prefix "US-" followed by the route number. US-67 refers to US Highway, Route 67.
State highways are named with the state abbreviation followed by the highway number as in IN-62 for Indiana Highway 62.
County roads are labeled with "County Road" or some abbreviation such as "CR" followed by the number of the road as in CR 1429.
If the Approaching item on NE's Nearby screen is checked, you will be alerted about proximate streets as you approach them.
If the street is a cross street, NE says the street name and "ahead." If NE recognizes the street as only to the right or left, it adds "Right Side" or "Left Side" to its announcement of the street name.
In addition to announcing the side of the street, NE also estimates and provides the distance to that intersection. As you approach the street, the distance is updated to reflect your changing position.
If you do not want to hear the progressive, distance updates, follow these steps:
The Guidance setting displays the next maneuver to take (in the directions) when you set a place as a destination. As an example, it might say, "In 30 yards north, turn left on Main St."
To set a place as a Destination, follow these steps:
When you set a destination, Nearby Explorer announces the route type (pedestrian or vehicle) and the distance and time to arrive at the destination. Note that a quirk in Talkback, the Android screen reader, can cut off this announcement if you have your text-to-speech engine set to the same engine that Talkback uses. To avoid cutting off the speech, use different TTS engines for Nearby Explorer and Talkback. To change Nearby Explorer's TTS engine, go to Menu/More/Settings/Select TTS Engine.
Each time you set a destination, Nearby Explorer adds it to its list of recent destinations. The program remembers the last 20 places to which you requested guidance. When you add the 21st item, the oldest destination gets bumped off the list.
When using the guidance function, keep in mind that streets are marked at their center line. Therefore, when Nearby Explorer says, "Turn left on Maple in 30 yards," you will need to take into consideration the width of the street.
When you acquire a list of Favorites or search results, you may obtain directions to that location or receive guidance as you travel there. These directions and guidance are optimized for either pedestrian or vehicle travel. To select pedestrian directions, select Pedestrian from the Route Settings menu.
Route settings customize the kinds of routes and directions NE creates. To change how NE calculates the route, select Route Settings from the Settings menu.
The route settings include route optimizations for fastest time, shortest distance, or least turns (main roads) and check boxes to let you specify if you want to use highways, unpaved roads, toll roads, and ferries in the route calculations.
To receive a list of directions, highlight the POI, then press Select. From the menu that appears, choose Get Directions. NE displays a list of directions. Each step provides the direction and distance to the next procedure in the route.
As you move toward the destination, the distance and direction of the first maneuver is updated, so it stays current. When you reach that point, the first maneuver is removed from the list, and the second one becomes the current maneuver.
For guidance while you travel to the POI, choose Set as Destination from the menu. NE responds by adding the first step of the directions in the Nearby screen's Guidance field. It also updates the Guidance field, so the next maneuver is announced as you move. The information in the Guidance field always contains the current distance and direction to the next maneuver.
To switch to or from Pedestrian mode while using the Guidance feature follow these steps:
If there are other route settings to change, adjust them here as well. NE automatically recalculates the route based on the new settings.
To display a list of remaining directions to the destination while using the Guidance feature (1) shift to the Guidance item on the Nearby Screen, (2) press and hold Select to display the context menu, and (3) choose Directions.
If you set a Destination to a location that is not on the road network, Nearby Explorer guides you to the nearest address in the network. From that point on, NE will only provide a distance and direction to the POI. However, since there are no roads, and paths are not included, it can only give you a "crow's flight" estimate of the POI's location in space. In other words, if you set a Destination for the middle of a large field or parking lot, Guidance can only direct you to the nearest street address. From then on, NE provides only the distance and direction to help pinpoint the location.
The Nearby Places item on the Nearby screen indicates the closest POI to your current location. If you check the Nearby Distance checkbox, NE announces the distance and direction to that POI and continually updates the information as you approach and then leave that location.
The Nearby feature includes both POIs included in the maps and Favorites you mark yourself.
Since your device knows both your current location and the location of points of interest around you, it is possible to use the device's compass to point at features in the environment and receive feedback about that feature. The feedback is received as a vibration, a sound, and an announcement with the name and distance of the POI. The vibration, in particular, makes pinpointing places both intuitive and easy. Think of this feedback as a beam emitting from the end of the device which you can use to point directly to features in the environment. As long as you maintain the direction, the vibration continues. You can use this vibration to guide you to the point.
Caution: There may be obstructions between you and the POI. Nearby Explorer cannot know about certain environmental barriers that may exist between you and the point. You must use traditional mobility techniques to ensure the path is safe or to follow a safe path to the point.
The tone also conveys information about the distance of the object to which you point. The higher the pitch, the closer you are to that point. Note that the speech also announces the distance, but the tone can be used to quickly get an idea about which objects are closest as you scan the environment. Note, too, that the tone is important for those devices, like the Nexus 7 tablet, that do not contain a vibrator.
There are two ways to position your device to use Geo Beam. For both positions, the "business end" is considered the top edge. To engage Geo Beam in the first position, hold the device out in front of you, (as though you were handing it to someone), pointing the business end in the direction of the POI. The screen should be facing skyward.
In this position, NE lets you know about the closest POI when you point to it. If you have a destination or a watch set, use the device in this position to find the destination or watch point.
The second position is the normal Geo Beam operating position. It is achieved by rotating the device 90 degrees counter clockwise from position 1, (as though you were shaking hands with someone). In this position, the screen faces to the left.
As you move your device into this position, Nearby Explorer makes a sound and indicates Geo Beam as its provider. When you move it out of Geo Beam position, NE makes another sound and, if you have the Provider item on the Nearby screen checked, announces the new provider of the information. This will usually be "GPS."
Point the end of the device in different directions while maintaining its orientation. When the end of the device points to a point of interest, NE makes a sound, vibrates, and announces the name of the place and its distance.
When using the Geo Beam, be sure to take notice of these characteristics:
To turn Geo Beam off, uncheck its setting in the Menu/More/Settings screen. Doing so lets you position the phone without getting feedback about nearby places.
If Geo Beam does not behave as you expect, you may check the Use Old Style Orientation Sensor option in the Settings dialog to help fine tune the behavior.
In addition to the name of the item or location, Nearby Explorer can provide the address of the nearest place. The address is a useful tool in determining information, such as which side of the street a place is located or that a place resides on a different street than the one on which you are located. On the other hand, it also adds lots of "chattering," especially when traveling by vehicle. Nearby Explorer tries to minimize the chatter by providing the address in a shorthand form. If the place is on the same street on which you are traveling, NE announces only the number on that street. If the place resides on another street, NE announces only that street name.
To set whether or not to announce the address along with the name of the place, follow these steps:
Remember that the addresses to places are approximate. You cannot count on the reported address to be exact. The maps do not contain the actual address. You may try turning on the Google addresses to see if those report more accurately in your area. See Settings/Use Google for Street Addresses.
If you do not have a network connection, Nearby Explorer uses the points of interest in its database to identify nearby places. If you have a data connection, it uses the Google Places service instead. This service can provide POIs in interesting and useful ways.
The Google Places service provides as many as 20 place results and up to two political/municipal results for each search request. Therefore, it can provide different, more general, or more meaningful results by increasing the radius of the search. Google allows a radius of up to approximately 30 miles.
By default, Nearby Explorer uses a radius of about 170 yards to help identify the nearest place. This radius usually provides adequate information about almost any small business, government facility, or other place in relative proximity. If you are located where there are few businesses or institutions, or if you reduce the radius, the results of places can be reduced until the municipal results are all that remain. Municipal results include names of streets, street intersections, neighborhoods, townships, states, and even whole continents if there are no other places nearby.
To change the radius that Nearby Explorer uses to identify the nearest place or search result, follow these steps:
There are a few ways to adjust the radius. Perhaps the easiest is to put the device into Geo Beam position. When you do, Nearby Explorer shows a dialog with two buttons--Increase Radius toward the top of the screen, and Decrease Radius near the bottom. Tap the button that represents how you wish to change the radius.
If you have a device with a keyboard, you may use the following technique to change the radius:
If you use a device with no arrow keys, hold Select on the Nearby Distance item and pick Set Radius from the context menu. Nearby Explorer responds with a menu from which you may select the desired radius.
In addition to using the Nearby Distance item on the main screen with the Left Arrow and Right Arrow or using the context menu, you can use the Search command from the program's menu. When you receive the list of search results, you can use Right Arrow and Left Arrow to increase and decrease the search radius, you may press the two list items at the end of the list; either "Increase Search Radius" or "Decrease Search Radius," or you may pick Radius from the Search screen menu to select the radius from a menu.
Each time you change the radius, Nearby Explorer announces the new radius and queries for a new set of results from Google Places. If the results of the new search are different from those of the previous one, and you have the Nearby Places item checked, the app announces the new location that it considers closest, based on your new radius. In addition, if you have the Nearby Distance item checked, the app announces the distance and direction to that location.
If you are traveling in a vehicle, it makes little sense to use a small radius, especially in a tightly populated area. As you travel, increase the radius based on the environment and your personal preferences.
The Watch function is used to monitor a particular point of interest. It is most effective as a reference and orientation tool. When you monitor a POI, Nearby Explorer always displays the distance and direction to the Watch point from your current position. To set a place as a Watch, follow these steps:
If you have the Watch box checked on the Nearby screen, NE monitors and announces the distance and direction to the place you are watching.
If you set a Watch position, the compass in your device can also be used to point to the Watch point. As you point at the watched position with your screen facing skyward, your device vibrates to let you know where that position is located in real time. For example, you could set the location of your car in a large parking lot as a Watch point and be able to locate it later without difficulty. If you clear the Watch point, by default your device vibrates when pointed at the next closest POI delineated in the Nearby Place item on the main screen. To turn off these vibration signals, clear the checkbox on the Watch item.
If Nearby Explorer detects that the direction you are heading coincides with the direction to a Nearby Place, it tries to simplify the directions by using "ahead" or "behind" instead of a compass direction. For example, if you were traveling north along Main St. and there was a library 100 yards north, NE might say, "Library Branch 100 yards ahead" instead of "Library Branch 100 yards North."
The Latitude and Longitude items in the Nearby screen show the current values of these positions.
Latitudes and longitudes are lines drawn on a map to precisely pinpoint any location on earth. Together, these values are commonly called a lat/long value or a geocoded position.
You do not need to know about latitudes and longitudes to effectively use the software, but they can be useful in some situations. Once you leave the road network, these values still provide relevant positioning information.
Latitudes are equally distant horizontal lines that circle the earth with the zero parallel at the equator and the 90th parallels at the North and South poles. (Much of the U.S. and Canadian border lies on the 49th parallel north (or 49N latitude line). As you move north or south from the equator, the numbers increase, and the position is expressed with N or S prefixed to the number that represents the value. Some commonly known latitudes are:
Longitudes are vertical lines expressed as east or west of the prime meridian, which is located close to London at Greenwich, England. The vertical lines start at the prime meridian with zero and go to 180 on the opposite side of the earth. The lines all converge at the North and South Poles; as the lines get closer to the equator, the farther apart they are. As you move east or west, the numbers increase from the zero prime. Boston's longitude is W 70. Some longitude references use a negative sign (-) rather than a W notation to denote longitudes west of the prime. This software uses the W.
Following is a list of common longitudes in the United States; all are west of the prime meridian.
The latitudes and longitudes are expressed as degrees, but they are more precisely denoted with minutes and seconds as well. This notation method is called Degree-Minute-Second (DMS).
There are a number of ways to represent latitudes and longitudes. The combination method this software uses expresses degrees and minutes separated by a colon, followed with a period and a fraction of a minute with three digit precision. This amount of precision works out so that each change in the fractional part equates to a few yards.
If the Latitude or Longitude item is checked in the Nearby screen, NE minimizes the amount of speech by announcing only the parts of the number that change. For instance, if you were at longitude W 85:42.815 and you moved a little farther west into W 85:42.816, NE announces only "W 816." The W lets you know the number is a longitude, and the "816" lets you know the finer detail. As you continue to travel west, the longitude cycles through to 999 and then to goes to W 85:43.000. When that change occurs, NE announces the whole number.
Use Latitude and Longitude announcements in places away from the road network where you may want finer detail than street addresses or when you want to pinpoint locations in open spaces.
To enter a location by its latitude and longitude, follow these steps:
NE adds this new POI as a Favorite and returns you to the Favorites screen.
Depending on how you want to use the program, Nearby Explorer offers some flexibility about how it announces lat/long values and how it allows you move around the map using these precision settings.
By default, the program uses three digits of precision after the decimal to announce changes and permit movement on the map. Three decimal places of precision is equal to a few yards movement, depending on exactly how far you are from the equator. To get notifications about finer movement, increase the precision to four digits after the decimal. This degree of precision amounts to just a few inches. Unfortunately, today's satellite receivers are not accurate enough to use that amount of precision. If you set four digits of precision, and you have the Latitude or Longitude items checked, you will likely experience constantly changing numbers and consistent chatter.
To lessen the frequency of notifications, decrease the precision.
To alter the precision of lat/long tools, follow these steps:
While Nearby Explorer keeps track of your location as you move, it can also provide information about other places while you remain stationary or move about virtually.
The program provides several methods for map exploration, such as using the Go To option (explained shortly) from the result of the Explore, Search, or Favorites tools or using the Latitude and Longitude movement tools provided on the Nearby screen.
You can also use a device's touch screen to explore the map. To learn more about map exploration using a touch screen, see Map View.
To VIRTUALLY shift to another city or state, see Search.
To explore the map using latitude or longitude movements, do the following:
Note that on a touch screen device you will need to go to Map View mode to navigate.
Using the left and right arrow keys on the Latitude and Longitude items on the main screen is a quick way to make a few movements on the map, but if you want to explore in more depth, use Navigation Mode. When navigation mode is in use, you may use all four arrow keys or the North, South, East, and West buttons to explore the map. As you move, Nearby Explorer notifies you about any of the items checked on the main screen. To turn on Navigation Mode, (1) hold Select until the context menu appears and (2) check the Navigation Mode option.
In Navigation Mode, the buttons and four arrow keys move as follows:
By default, each arrow key press or button click moves 20 yards. You may change the movement distance by following these steps:
Navigation Mode moves in the exact direction you request by default. This can be a problem, however, if you wish to follow a road that does not run exactly north/south or east/west. The Follow Roads checkbox on the Navigation Mode screen makes Nearby Explorer follow the road instead of moving in the precise direction you indicate. This usually works well, but it can sometimes cause Nearby Explorer to assume the incorrect street when navigating through an intersection. Changing the movement distance when near an intersection or specifying a different direction often helps you get back on the correct street in this situation.
If you are using a keyboard with Navigation Mode, you can change the Follow Roads setting from the Settings screen. Remember that you can press the letter S on your keyboard to quickly access Settings.
To exit Navigation Mode, press Select or use the Back button.
The Accuracy setting provides a number to be considered as a range. For instance, if NE shows "2 Yards" the program is fairly confident that it knows your position within 2 yards. The smaller the number, the more accurate you should consider Nearby Explorer's information.
The number of satellites affects the accuracy. The more satellites, the better the accuracy. You need at least four satellites to get an accurate position. It is not unusual to get 11 or 12. If you have the box checked for Number of Satellites, NE announces the available number and update changes.
The Show/Hide Items option on the main screen lets you customize what appears on the screen. All items appear by default, but you may find you rarely ever care about some of them.
To hide items from the main screen, select Show/Hide Items and uncheck any item you wish to omit from the home screen. Note that if the item is checked on the home screen and you hide it, Nearby Explorer continues to announce status changes to that item, even if it is hidden. Set the status of the announcement by checking or unchecking it on the main screen before you hide that item.
To unhide an item, select Show/Hide Items from the main screen, and uncheck the checkbox.
In addition to the POIs in the maps, you can add your own places. Nearby Explorer calls these Favorites.
Favorites are treated like Nearby Places. As you approach a Favorite, NE announces its name and location.
Favorites have one distinct advantage over POIs in the map data which is that you can mark a position more precisely than the ones provided in the maps. You may, for example, wish to mark the exact position of the front door to a restaurant or business. Remember the map data puts addresses just on either side of the street's center line.
Another advantage of Favorites is you may denote POIs that may not be of interest to anyone else, such as a mailbox, trashcan, or park bench. Once you pinpoint the POI, save it as a Favorite, and you will not miss it again. Finally, you may publish Favorites (explained shortly). When you publish a Favorite, other people using Nearby Explorer recognize that Favorite as part of the online map data from the Google Places service. (Note: A data connection is required to use this feature.)
To set your current location as a Favorite, follow these steps:
It is useful to give favorite places meaningful names that more precisely describe the marked position. When marking the door to a restaurant, for example, use exact wording to distinguish that Favorite from the more general POI in the maps. "Side Door to Wendy's" distinguishes the entrance from the map data's more general "Wendy's" moniker.
To display a list of your Favorites, press Menu to open the program menu and select Favorites.
The Favorites list organizes your Favorites by their distance from your current position, so the closest places are listed first.
Each item in the list shows the name of the Favorite, its distance and direction from your current position, and the nearest address to the location.
To rename a Favorite, follow these steps:
To delete a Favorite, follow these steps:
To fine tune the placement of a favorite to the current position, follow these steps:
To share your Favorites, follow these steps:
Nearby Explorer uses transit feeds for several transit systems to provide information about public transit.
To use the Transit feature in a supported metropolitan area, press Transit from the program's menu. If you are in a metropolitan area with more than one transit system, NE displays a menu of the systems available. If you will always use the same transit system, and you do not want to see the menu each time, highlight the one you prefer, press and hold Select, and then choose Set as Default from the context menu that appears. To remove the default, choose Clear Default Transit System from the menu on the initial Transit screen. Once you choose a transit system, Nearby Explorer's Transit Stop screen displays a list of all the transit stops within 350 yards of your current position, with the closest stop listed first.
To broaden the search radius, press Right Arrow, or use the Increase Radius option at the bottom of the list.
Each list item contains the following information:
To see a list of all the means of transport that service a particular stop, select one of the stops. NE displays a screen with all the vehicles that service that stop.
The modes of transport are represented by a list of circuits starting with the next circuit. Each line item contains the following information:
To follow a route, select a stop. NE responds by showing all the stops on that route.
To see a complete schedule for the selected transportation mode, select a stop. NE responds with a menu containing Go To and Schedule. Pick Schedule from the menu. NE displays a list of all the times the selected bus or train stops at that location, highlighting the next scheduled stop.
To move to earlier times, press Up Arrow.
To move to later times, press Down Arrow.
To see a different day, press Right Arrow for the next day or Left Arrow for the previous day or pick the day from one of the buttons at the bottom of the screen.
To identify buses/trains at other stops, press Back to get to the Nearby Stops screen and select another stop.
Nearby Explorer uses an automated system to keep its transit information up-to-date. If an update is available, NE downloads the schedule the next time you select Transit while your device has a network connection.
If your local area does not support Google Transit, see Google's Transit Page for information about requesting the transit authority in your area to participate.
Here is a list of the current supported areas:
Nearby Explorer assists you with finding businesses, institutions, addresses, and places that relate to a specific topic.
Once you find a business, you can do one of several things, depending upon the information available for that location. These things include receiving directions or guidance, adding it to your Favorites, travel to it virtually on the map, or even visiting the business's web page in the browser.
If you have a network connection, the search results are enhanced with the Google Places service. This service provides more timely and accurate information about places than what may be provided with the onboard maps. It also provides search results based on a search radius that behaves in interesting and useful ways. Read more about the way the search radius effects Places in the Adjust Nearest Place Behavior section of this documentation.
Nearby Explorer can search within approximately a 30 mile radius of your actual or virtual position. To initiate a search with another location than your own, first search for a city and state and then search for the place of interest.
To search for POIs in another city or state, you must switch to that city first. To do this, follow these steps:
Press Down Arrow twice until you find the Search City/Sate Code button.
NE responds by displaying a list of matching cities and the county in which that city is located. Each item in the list also indicates that city's distance and direction from your current location. Pick the city of interest and press Select.
NE responds with a City Action menu containing either Go To or Search.
To move the virtual position to that city and return to the Nearby screen, choose Go To.
To display search results from that city, choose Search.
To search the map for other cities, streets, or POIs, pick Search from the Nearby Explorer menu or press the Search selection. NE responds by displaying a Search Results activity screen that includes an edit box, three buttons, and a list of POIs around you.
The types of items that appear in this list depend on your network connection, the search radius setting, your location, any terms you have typed, and any categories you have specified.
These POIs are arranged so the closest one appears at the top of the list. Each list item shows the name of the place, its category, and its distance and direction from your current or virtual position.
If you have a network connection, the list item also includes the POI's address as obtained from Google Places.
To show places related to a term you type, follow these steps:
Nearby Explorer automatically increases the search radius to about 30 miles when you provide a specific term to find.
If you have a network connection, Nearby Explorer provides search results from the Google Places service. The search results screen indicates the presence of a network connection by putting "Online" in the search results title. It also puts the default radius for the search in the title. You may increase and decrease the radius in the search results screen by pressing the right or left arrow keys.
Initially, the list shows all POIs in all categories, however, if you do not have a network connection you may restrict the list to more manageable subsets.
To select categories of search results when no network connection is present, follow these steps:
When you highlight and select a POI, Nearby Explorer displays a menu of actions from which to choose. The menu includes Add to Favorites, Go To, Get Directions, Get Guidance, and other possible options depending on the information that is available for that POI.
If you use Google Places for searching, you can find intersections as well as POIs. To find an intersection, type the names of the two streets of interest, separated by the word "and." For example, a search of "Main and Maple" would find the intersection for Main and Maple streets.
The cache is usually a small trinket and a log of the dates when the treasure was found. When you discover the cache, you register the log and replace the trinket with one of similar or greater value.
To enter a location by its latitude and longitude, follow the steps listed in the Latitude and Longitude section of this document.
You can use NE to provide you with approximate directions to geocaching POIs. However, in most cases, you must set the POI as a Watch point, and then allow the app to display the distance and direction to that POI once you leave the road network.
While Nearby Explorer does not yet have a good mode to explore the road network, it does provide some interesting ways to explore the map from several perspectives.
To see the Explore screen, press Menu and choose Explore.
NE displays a list of intersections on the current street. It also displays a "Streets" button and a "Go To" button.
Each intersection in the list shows the name of the intersecting street, the distance and direction to that intersection, and in which direction the street runs.
If you were on Maple Street between 1st and 2nd Streets and opened the Explore view, you might see a list like the following:
Nearby Explorer highlights the closest intersection to your current location. When you open this view, the cursor will be on the 2nd Street or 3rd Street item depending on which is closest.
To turn onto one of the streets listed, highlight the street and press Select. NE displays a new list with all the intersections on the new street. Of course, one of those intersections is the street you were on when you pressed Select, so the list might look like the following:
Since the intersection of 2nd and Maple is closest, NE highlights the street "Maple" in the list.
When you get to the desired location, press the Go To button to return to the Nearby screen with your location set to the selected intersection.
The Streets button lets you examine the map by looking at nearby streets without regard for intersections. When you press the Streets button, NE shows a list of eight nearby streets, one for each of the following directions:
Each list item contains the street name, its distance, and its direction from the current position.
To go to one of the streets in the list, highlight the street name, and then press Select. NE responds by shifting to the selected street and making it the current location. It then places the approximate address in the title of the screen, and populates the list with the eight streets closest to the new location. NE also maintains the list item number, so if you are on the third item in the list when you press Select, the new list is displayed with the third item highlighted. It is possible, therefore, to move continuously in an easterly direction by scrolling down to the street east of the current location, then continuing to press Select to consecutively pick the next street heading east.
The default distance for Streets is 1000 yards. If NE does not perceive another street in the indicated direction within the allotted distance, it enables you to move in that direction by the indicated distance.
While moving to nearby streets can be useful, making larger movements on the map can be tedious using this method. The "1 Mile" button changes the street list from streets that are near your current position to streets that are 1 mile from the current position. When you press the 1 Mile button, NE changes the list of streets to reflect the new distance selection. It also changes the 1 Mile button to a 10 Mile button. Pressing the 10 Mile button changes the street list to streets that are 10 miles away. When using 10 miles, the button changes back to Intersections. Use the 10 Mile button to make large movements; use the Streets or 1 Mile button to make finer moves.
The Map View menu option shows an interactive, touch responsive and accessible map of your current or virtual position. Use it to show a map of your current position or of the area around a search result or favorite.
To use the map view, first decide if you want a map of your current position or a map of another area. If you want a map of an area other than the current position, use whatever means necessary to get your virtual position where you want it. You can do that by using navigation mode, searching, selecting a favorite, or using the Explore menu option.
When you are ready to show the map, select Map View from the program's main menu.
Use your finger to touch or slide around on any part of the screen to receive feedback about that part of the map. The feedback you get from touching the map depends on which items you have checked on Nearby Explorer's main screen. So, if you have only City, State, and Street Name checked, you get information about only those items. The kinds of things you check depend on exactly what you want to do with the map. If you just want to explore, use the normal settings that you use for actual navigation. The map view provides the same kind of feedback you get if you traveled to that part of the map where you touch.
To alter the kinds of things that get announced while in the map view, press the More Options button and pick Announcement Settings from the resulting menu. Nearby Explorer shows the same list of items to check or uncheck as you see on the main screen. There are two different preference screens—one for views less than five miles and one for views over five miles. (Once the map gets much bigger than that, it is not practical, for example, to get information about street names or addresses.)
North is at the top of the screen. South is at the bottom, and east and west are right and left respectively.
To scroll the map, use the normal two finger scrolling technique required when you are running TalkBack. That is, touch two fingers on the screen then slide them in the desired direction. To move east, for example, touch two fingers in the direction you wish to scroll, then slide. If you want to see more of the map east of your current view, touch eastward toward the right side of the screen, then slide left. Similarly, to move north, touch the top of the screen and slide down. When you scroll, Nearby Explorer announces the new point at the center of the screen.
To show more on the map, touch the screen with two fingers, then slowly pinch those two fingers together toward each other. When you release your fingers, Nearby Explorer shows a map with more area, and it announces the new width of the screen. It might say, for instance, "20 miles." This indicates that the distance from the left edge to the right edge of the screen is now set to 20 miles.
To show more detail, place two fingers on the screen, then separate them from each other. This shows less area on the map.
To follow a street on the map, pause your finger on the street of interest. Nearby Explorer announces, "Set" and vibrates anytime you touch that street.
While Nearby Explorer comes with maps for only the United States and Canada, you may use Google's Places service to get details about any place on earth.
To virtually travel to places outside the U.S. and Canada, turn on Use Network and Use Google for Street Addresses from the Settings option on the main menu.
Once you have a network connection, you may move to countries outside the United States or Canada in one of two ways—by scrolling the portion of earth you want into view or by using the Country Search dialog accessible from the More Options button on the Map View screen.
You may use Geo Beam to examine the surrounding virtual area, just as if you were there.
If you make or receive a phone call while Nearby Explorer is working, the program mutes the announcements until the phone call is complete.
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