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Mobile Geo Brings GPS Bling to the Big Blue Ball

NOTE 1: Mobile Geo, the culmination of a joint venture between Code Factory and the Sendero Group, is a GPS navigation software solution for the blind and low vision that can be used on off-the-shelf Windows Mobile devices.


Hello My Friends,

Earlier this week, Code Factory released version 1.5 of its ground breaking GPS software solution for the blind and low vision, Mobile Geo.

In the coming months, I will be writing articles and producing podcasts covering this exciting and dynamic new tool that has singlehandedly transformed what has been described as a seemingly unfathomable mobile world into a beautifully mapped and accessible global village.

In the interest of brevity, I will forego any lengthy description of the nature and basic functions of GPS and/or GPS related devices, in this post, in favor of sharing my first real proverbial test-drive of Code Factory's Mobile Geo.

So, let's get started!


My name is Mark Taylor and I live in southern California. I am 42 years old. I was born legally blind. Following a complete retina detachment, ten or so years ago, my residual vision was reduced to little more than light perceptive tunnel vision. Since then, I have learned to use what remaining sight I still possess as much as possible without putting myself or others at risk.

While I can read magnified text on a closed-circuit television (CCTV) and though my primary Desktop computer is equipped with a 26-inch LCD display complete with a screen-reading and screen-magnification software package, for all intent and purposes, I choose to function as a totally blind individual. That is, when traveling alone, I use a white cane. My preferred method of reading hardcopy text is Braille.

Though it may be difficult for some to believe, as it has taken me a lifetime to accept, there are moments when I know I am the luckiest person alive; for while I enjoy the splendor and awesome beauty, known only to those who see with their eyes, I am also enraptured and protected by the subconscious and ancient knowledge, known only to those who see with their thoughts.


Before Code Factory's release of Mobile Geo, in addition to navigating with a cane, I used HumanWare's PDA/software GPS solution, Trekker. Please note that Trekker, along with HumanWare's Maestro application, was the first to bring GPS and PDA accessibility to the visually impaired wishing to use off-the-shelf wireless hardware.

Allow me to thank HumanWare for being the first to provide an accessible GPS utility for me and thousands like me to add to our mobile toolkits.


At the time of this post, my primary wireless devices include:

  1. Samsung Epix SGH-i907 PocketPC Smartphone, with internal GPS receiver and an 8GB SD Card
  2. AT&T Wireless Cell Phone Service with Unlimited Data and Text Messaging Plan
  3. Standard Samsung Epix wired headset/microphone
  4. Jabra 8040 Stereo BlueTooth Headset
  5. Royal Tech 2110 External Bluetooth GPS Reciever.


OK, for my first official test run of Mobile Geo 1.5 on my Samsung Epix, I have two objective, (1) to see how accurately and timely Mobile Geo announces intersections and cross street names as I either walk or ride in an automobile, without first having to create or activate any kind of route functions, and (2) to see how Mobile Geo performs when I receive an incoming call on my Smartphone.

Simply put, I want to see how well Mobile Geo performs "out-of-the-box", so to speak. If it passes my test, then I know that if I ever become disoriented, all I need do is launch Mobile Geo and it will immediately begin announcing my current location. To me, this is an essential function of any high quality GPS navigation solution. Not to mention that it allows me to quickly and easily join in the navigation experience when traveling to previously undetermined destinations.


Before setting out today, I took the following steps in order to configure both Mobile Geo and my Samsung Epix SGH-i907 Smartphone:

NOTE 2: This document presumes that you have already installed and are familiar with the basic features and functions of both Code Factory's Mobile Speak and Mobile Geo software applications.

NOTE 3: For the sake of convenience, the following steps are written in present tense.

  1. Make sure all necessary equipment is fully charged.
  2. Set Mobile Speak speech rate to 18 (or personal preference).
  3. Pair any necessary Bluetooth devices with the Epix.
  4. Launch Mobile Geo.
  5. Select which GPS receiver to use.

NOTE 4: As noted above, in addition to the Epix internal GPS receiver, I also have an external Bluetooth GPS receiver. In this exercise, I will be using my external GPS receiver.

  1. From within Mobile Geo, confirm that GPS Mode is active.
  2. Configure Mobile Geo to automatically announce street names and intersections, only. To do this:
  1. From within Mobile Geo, in the Functions Menu, select Settings.
  2. Select General Options. A Dialog Box will appear.
  3. Make sure the Detailed Street Name item is unchecked.
  4. Make sure that the Prevent Device from Going into Standby or Sleep Mode item is checked.
  5. The last item in this list box, labeled Intersection Max Speed Share Reporting, determines at what speed the GPS receiver must travel before Mobile Geo stops making automatic intersection announcements. While the default value is set to 50 miles per hour, I have mine set to 150 miles per hour. That is to say, unless otherwise specified, I always want intersections announced regardless of the speed at which I (or more accurately my GPS receiver) is traveling.
  6. Tap the phone's Left-Soft Key to save the settings and be returned to the Settings Menu Items List.
  7. Select the LookAround Options list item. A Dialog Box will appear containing a list of items from which you can either enable or disable by placing or removing a Checkmark in each item's Checkbox, respectively.
  8. Uncheck the Commercial Points item, only (Recommended for this exercise).
  9. Tap the phone's Left-Soft Key to save the settings and be returned to the Settings Menu Items List.
  10. Tap the phone's Right-Soft Key to close the Settings Menu and be returned to Mobile Geo's Main Screen.

That's it. Now you're ready to roll (or walk, as the case may be) (Smile).


As I walked out of my house, armed only with my Samsung Epix, my beloved white cane, and a one-piece stereo Bluetooth headset, I was ready to put Geo through it's paces.

  1. As I began my tech-testing trek, I was delighted to discover that even though I was walking down streets that curved through rather tall buildings, Geo announced upcoming cross streets, perfectly. In fact, Geo adjusted its rate of approach as I varied my walking speed.
  2. As planned, a friend met me at a nearby intersection and we got into her automobile.
  3. I instructed her to drive at various speeds and through a variety of urban and suburban areas. Mobile Geo performed flawlessly. With the CPU power of my Epix, keeping pace with the car was no problem for Geo.
  4. I instructed my friend to drive onto several freeways, again, traveling at different rates of speed. To my absolute amazement, Geo continued to accurately announce upcoming off-ramps, cross streets, and even over paths. My biggest surprise was when Geo announced that we were going under a railroad track just as our car actually went under the railroad track. (Big, big smile)
  5. While navigating the freeway system, I received an incoming phone call. As expected, Geo moved to the background and I was able to converse comfortably with the caller while at the same time hearing Mobile Geo continue to make intersection announcements at a lower volume level which I had set in Mobile Speak.
  6. Upon ending the call, Mobile Geo returned to the foreground of the device and its volume level increased accordingly.


Mobile Geo performed perfectly today. In conjunction with the Samsung Epix, Geo accurately and reliably reported my current GPS location complete with automatic intersection announcements.

In no way, did Mobile Geo impede the performance of my wireless device or compromise my safety. In fact, to my amazement, I discovered that Mobile Geo added yet another layer of accessibility to my traveling experience, greatly reducing any travel fatigue, while at the same time increasing the reliability and integrity of my mobility skills.

Unlike prior GPS solutions for the blind and low vision, Mobile Geo did not require that I carry an additional piece of hardware in order to enjoy the freedom of navigating with confidence.

A very fine first showing, to be sure.

Congratulation to Code Factory, Sendero, and all of us for we have now stepped through an accessible door that will never be closed again.

Most Sincerely,

Mark Taylor
Friday, March 06, 2009

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