Navigating Black Rock Desert Blind


Hi Lawrence,

I have a question for you: I’m trying to put together a project to ride a single bike across the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, about 100 miles. It’s pretty flat, but I’d want to use talking GPS to navigate from point A to point B. I think there’s a feature on your GPS which helps you track a straight line and alerts you if you’re straying? How does this work?

What’s your system for navigating your boat?

Can you give me some advice?
Hi Erik,

Will the terrain be smooth without obstacles?  The nice thing about being on the water is that it’s pretty much obstacle free.  The hard thing is to keep from getting turned around, which happens in a heart beat.  I’m sure the same could be said for a desert environment.

Most GPS systems for the blind are meant for travelling on paths or sidewalks.  Can’t really go anywhere but straight ahead, or back.  Thus, the need for continuous feedback is limited.

The new Breeze system is one such unit.  Good for giving you a general sense of the direction you want to go in, but not nearly as precise as one would need to have to avoid a very snaky ride.  100 miles could easily increase by 50%.  Like a bird dog, you know, running left to right and back again…

The older Trekker that runs on the Maestro is more precise as it gives course corrections by degrees, but this device too also gives feedback only about every ten seconds, and a lot can happen in ten seconds.   

Forget about talking compasses.  They are good for getting you started in the right direction, which is something GPS systems can’t do, since GPS only kicks in once you have begun to move and the computer can begin to calculate your movement based on multiple readings.  Tactic made a wearable audible compass for the blind sailing community.  It gave high beep tones if one veered to the left and low tones if one strayed right.  The tones increase in rate the more you are off track.  It’s precise to one degree.  I have a larger, first generation unit that operates on 12v but I’ve yet to be able to track down one of the 50 miniature units that were made by Tactic in England, and Tactic itself won’t build any more.  If you find a source of these, please keep me in mind.   

Sendero is working on a newer system that will offer more to sailors.  You might want to check with Mike May on their progress.  It would be nice if you could get a Sendero product that worked on one of the new GPS cell phones.   

The I-Phone also has GPS built in now, and a digital compass.  These phones also talk, and there are now some blind people using them.  Haven’t heard any concrete feedback yet, as its one thing to say a device talks, and quite another to try it in a real world setting.   

My last idea would be to check with Ed Gallacher of the Gennoa Connections project.  The technology there uses a head mounted camera and ear piece tied into the internet through a wireless feed.  You are in real time contact with someone on a computer who can tell you what’s in front of you.   

Anyway, please keep me posted on how you make out as I’d be very interested to know.  I’d also be happy to advise more if needed.  Anchors Up,

Lawrence Euteneier

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