Mobile Apps: Wikitude Drive Testers Wanted

When I first saw the demo for this app, it reminded me of orientation at Qualcomm. We had to get into groups and come up with a new product. The product my group (ie: I) came up with was glasses that would display your drive route directly in front of you, projecting your turn-by-turn navigation over the road. Wikitude World Browser comes close. The first AR satellite navigation system with global coverage, your driving directions are projected directly on top of live-video of the road before you.

The first 2,000 beta testers can get the app for free in the Android Market. I’ve downloaded it recently and will let you know what I think soon. Feel free to post your experience in the comments. QR Code provided for faster download.

Mobile Apps: I love you Swype!

I’m not one for keyboard replacements — never really saw the point (ooooo it’s another color). Sure, I’ll root a phone, install custom ROMs, switch out desktops, etc., but the keyboard has always been, well, a keyboard. The irritation of hitting those tiny little keys onscreen is what made me love the physical keyboard of my HTC G1 so much. The HTC Droid Incredible has no physical keyboard (but it does have Google Earth *drool*). The lack of physical keyboard initially made me a sad panda, until I found Swype. Don’t have Swype? Have a go over at the friendlies at XDA Forums.

Swype beta closed? Official beta APK in here!!! – Page 10 – xda-developers
What is Swype you ask? Short answer, it’s a closed Beta program. I know, not helpful. Plus, how closed can it be with a link to the APK? πŸ˜‰ Anyways, Swype is simply one of the most intuitive keyboards (IMHO) you can ask for. Instead of hitting at the keys on screen, you simply draw your finger from one letter to the next. You don’t even have to be all that accurate. The app guesses at what you’re trying to type, and if there’s multiple options, will provide you a list to choose from. It’s like an autocorrect (of sorts) for typing/texting on a phone. If the word doesn’t exist, hit the buttons “old school”, click the text that appears, and voila! it’s added to your dictionary. Typing is so much faster, because it’s more like scribbling than anything. Only legibly πŸ˜‰

The app comes with a tutorial, one of the few tutorials I’ve ever done in my life (DO THE TUTORIAL!!! So many good tips & tricks in there!). Ok, so I did the tutorial thinking that was the only way to activate the program, but still, it’s good. Oh, to activate Swype? First, enable it in Settings > Language & Keyboard > Swype (checkbox). Second, go to a text field (say, in a search box) and long press the field. A popup will appear, then click Swype and you’re all set to go.

So how does this relate to geography? Because now, taking notes on your phone out in the field just got that much less frustrating =)

Fieldwork: Don’t Assume

As I went out to perform some additional fieldwork for GPS testing, I found my inner voice chastising me. Why? Because after two months of no fieldwork, I had forgotten all the lessons I had learned the second time around. Why the second time? Because I had forgotten them the first time around, when I began on my thesis’s fieldwork. So, in order to *hopefully* avoid the same mistakes in the future, I have come up with a list of things to NOT do with regard to fieldwork. Hopefully this will help others just getting started with fieldwork, or perhaps getting back to it after a hiatus.

Do NOT Assume That:

  1. You have gas (or enough gas). Invariably, you will run out sooner than you think you will;
  2. All hardware/software you used previously will continue to work. A sneaky update may have installed on unrelated software that can cause havoc (trust me);
  3. You can reconfigure your settings in the field. You can, but it will invariably take you longer and you will screw up because you won’t remember every single last item to configure. Do it before you leave. No, doing in the car doesn’t count, you’ll screw up there too;
  4. You’ll remember everything. You won’t. You’ll think you will, but you’ll forget (like I did, hence these notes *grin*). Take copious notes. I know it’s a pain in the butt, but it’s worth it in the end, especially when you have to justify why you did certain things out in the field, or why your readings may be wonky;
  5. Your site will be accessible. You may need permission to enter private land, passcodes, keys, etc. Or, the owner might not let you on period. Find out BEFORE you go out, if you can. Otherwise, have a Plan B;
  6. Your site(s) will be similarly accessible on return visits. Vegetation has a way of sneaking up on you, other personnel may be doing site work in your study area, the land may be purchased, etc. Just be aware;
  7. You can figure it out as you go. Plan in advance as much as possible. Have a Plan A, B, and C. Start thinking about Plans D & E in the back of your mind. At some point you’ll end up going with Plan J. Be flexible, but be prepared;
  8. You’ll have access to food, so think like a hiker/camper/backpacker. Take your essentials, including more water and food than you think you’ll, since fieldwork always takes longer than you think it should; and
  9. You can consistently do the same workload. There are always off days. Your tired, hungry, burned out, whatever. Know that fieldwork takes time, and more of it than we expect.

Other things to keep in mind:

  1. Equipment is not safe in the field. If you’re using electronic devices, try to get them protective cases/screen protectors. Dust and sand are everywhere, especially in the Southwest, and you don’t want your shiny new gear screwed because you got sand in it.
  2. Take a camera and record your field session. You never know when you’ll need that photo for a presentation, or to look back on the experience with fond memories. Be sure to get pics of your crew too.
  3. Plan breaks. Your brain will get tired, especially on hot days, and it won’t work as well.
  4. Make sure to refocus. Sometimes you can get lost in what you’re focusing on, and try to force your way through it. This will lead to sloppy data and sloppy results. If you notice yourself doing this, see #3 and take a short break. It will be better for you and your work in the long run.
  5. Have fun. You’re out there for a reason. When you’re tired, exhausted, and want nothing more than to go home and relax, remember why you’re out there. Then remember the positive reason why you’re out there πŸ˜‰ It’s always better to love what you do, and you’ll collect better data in a good frame of mind.


Take a treat with you. After all your hard work, you’ve earned it!