Heare Mobile Audio Navigation

HEARE App is an iPhone application that lets you walk anywhere in the world. Make your own routes on the heareapp.com website and share them with your (blind) friends. The app uses 3D audio to guide you from point to point.

Bartimeus HEARE App

The HEARE App starts where conventional navigation apps stop. With HEARE app, you can make your own off-the-road routes and walk them even if you are blind. Just follow the direction of the sound and it will lead you from point to point. Because of the 3D audio, there is no need for visual navigation and you are not bothered by a voice telling you to go left or right. HEARE is not just nice for blind people, you can also use it to lead your friends to a secret hiding place or the location of the bar for tonight’s meeting.

Stilstaand beeld uit video van HeareAppEN

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Make your own route on the www.heareapp.com website. In future versions we want to include that into the app, but for the moment you will have to use the website. Use the code that is generated on the website in the app and start walking. The app has a number of pre-defined walks, but better is to make you own.

With the HEARE App, visually impaired people can, for the first time, go for a walk in nature all by themselves: “Without my wife but with my guide dog Brent I walked around the Soesterduinen, all by myself. It took some time to get used to, but thanks to the ‘barking’ sound of the HEARE app in the right direction all went well. I can see nothing, but now, for the first time, I had a great walk alone” says Derk van de Velde. Bram Elderman, Sr. Systems Engineer at Apple Netherlands: “I am impressed by HEARE, we have not seen this before. Great to see that Apple accessibility can support people with a visual disability.”

And HEARE app is great for every route you want to share with your friends, even if they are not blind. Let them discover where you have been or meet-up at the end of the route.

To use HEARE app, you can use a headphone and let the 3d audio sounds direct you. Just follow the direction of the sound and it will lead you from point to point.If using a headphone is not desirable or safe, just take it off and listen to the clicks or (if you can) look at the arrow on the screen directing you to the next point. But be careful: always use your common sense, beware of danger and if you are visually impaired, use your guidedog and cane.

With HEARE App

  • You can walk on and off-the-road anywhere in the world (almost).
  • You can share walks with others (using social media, mail etc.)
  • A sound guides you from point to point (choose your own sound)

What do you need

  • iPhone
  • Headphones
  • For people with visual disability: your guide dog and/or cane
  • Wifi or internet to make and downloading the route

 How does it work

  • Plan your route at www.heareapp.com and download the unique code
  • Type the code in the App or choose a route from the menu
  • Start the walk and share it with others through social media or mail
  • Watch the video made by our interns on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/56526657

 More about the HEARE App

Startscherm van HEARE app met keuze Route en PreferentiesWith HEARE app you can go almost anywhere as long as you have the code of a route. To make routes, go to www.heareapp.com. Go to the 'create' page and make your own routes by clicking on the map. Once you enter the code of the route into the HEARE app and save it there, you do not need a web connection anymore. HEARE app uses 3d audio. That means that you can hear the direction you have to go to next. If you turn right, the sound also turns. You can choose different sounds like a barking dog, etc. Maybe in the next version you can add your own sound. We are planning to add more user input possibilities, including making your own routes inside the app itself.

The HEARE app works on iPhones starting from iPhone 3gs but it is much faster on newer phones. Please note that GPS is still very unstable and undetailed. In a car, people usually do not notice, because of the speed, but when walking, the signal can be distorted by trees and buildings.

3D audio

HEARE uses 3D audio. With 3D audio you can hear the direction of a sound using a normal headphone. If you turn around, the sound also turns around. The sound is placed on a fixed coordinate when you make the route. The application uses commonly available GPS signals and the compass of the phone. This sort of sound is also called Audio Augmented Reality and is used in many games. Now you can use it for navigation.

Good examples of some of the current possibilities of 3D audio can be found in the following apps:

  • Where's my rubber ducky, the ultimate Zombie Shooter Game for the blind. Zombies from outer space invaded earth. Took all the women, good food and Jack's rubber ducky. Jack sets out on a zombie killing rampage to get back his rubber ducky so he can take a bath. Get your iPhone and plug in your headphones to experience the 3D audio. Hear what direction the Alien Zombie Monsters are coming from and start shooting! for the blind and for all others who like to shoot zombies.
  • Augmented Stereo App, an 'Audio Augmented Reality' example of a guitar player in front of your house, caravan, car, office…
  • Heare Mecca, an Audio Augmented Reality' app that tries to point exactly in the direction of Mecca.

 Questions and answers

Why is it only for iPhone? - Apple has made a connection between GPS, compass and hardware that makes 3D audio fast enough for games and applications. We hope other platforms will also support this with the same speed soon.

Why are there only a few routes in the app? – Because you have to make the routes yourself. Go to the website www.heareapp.com, make your own route and share it with your friends (or a special selection..). The routes that are included in the current version of the app are made by ‘trusted’ organizations. If you also want to be a ‘trusted’ organization, let us know. But don’t let that stop you from making and sharing codes for your routes now. We plan to make a version where everyone can make their own routes just using the app. But for now, we are out of money..

My GPS does not work? HEARE points me the wrong way. What am I doing wrong? – Possibly you are doing nothing wrong. Sometimes people have covers with a magnet around their phones. We have seen that these magnets distort the compass signal. But, GPS is still a very unstable thing. Maybe there are trees or buildings close by that distort the signal. But during the testing phase we have walked into the sea once or twice. So be very careful and beware of danger at all times. Use your common sense and do blindly trust on your phone or the app at any time.

Why can I not make routes in the app itself? – Yeah, that is what we want to do also. The version that does that, is not yet stable enough to release. We need more testing. In the meantime, use the website www.heareapp.com

Why so many disclaimers? – Because we have talked to lawyers to much and they scare us all the time. But most importantly to warn you to take care when you use the app. Use your common sense, do not take any risks, beware of any potential dangerous situation, even more than normally. Always use safety regulations, follow rules, do what police officers say and honor your parents. And if you are visually impaired, also use your cane and/or guide dog and do not use the headphone if that is not safe.

Is the app completely accessible using VoiceOver on iPhone? – Well, we did just discover one button that does not function well. We are now repairing that (should be ok in a week or so). For the rest, we have tested the app with visually impaired users for more than a year and worked on all their comments and wishes. One thing we could not help is the precision of GPS. We hope the European Galileo satellite will help resolve this problem in time. 

Can I use this app for quests and games? – Yes you can. But be careful when walking routes that other people have made, because it seems that you cannot trust everybody in the world....

More information and who funded this app

HEARE is a project of Bartimeus Foundation for the blind in the Netherlands. The project was funded by the Vereniging Bartimeus Sonneheerdt. For more information about the iPhone app HEARE, you can contact Bartimeus. The app was produced for Bartimeus by the Accessibility Foundation.

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