Loadstone-GPS

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[edit] Loadstone-GPS

The main programmer of the Loadstone project, Shawn Kirkpatrick, and all the members of the Loadstone-team are developers of a free and open source navigation software for blind pedestrians. At present, this program runs on Nokia S60 Symbian devices and is a great solution for increasing the mobility of blind persons, thereby making their lives easier and more independent. Since for large rural regions of our world nearly no exactly map data is available in common map databases, the Loadstone software provides users with the option to create, store, and share their own navigation waypoints with others. Although satellite navigation can not replace orientation & mobility training, a white cane or a guide dog, it complement perfectly.

There is a growing community of Loadstone users, testers and developers. This kind of self-help and collaboration on a global scale is a very new and unique approach - especially given the fact that the software is free and open source.

[edit] NEWS

  • On April 21, 2009, version 0.72 has been released.
  • On September 24, 2008 the Loadstone team released version 0.71 which now works with the integrated GPS chips from devices such as the Nokia N82, N95 or the 6110 Navigator. Read more about other new features at the release notes on the download page.
  • On May 06, 2008 the Loadstone team released version 0.70 which is the first Symbian signed version. Now all blind persons with a Nokia S60 device can easily install the software.
  • On January 15, 2008 Forum Nokia released the first part of the Loadstone story. Forum Nokia is one of the largest mobile developer communities in the world. The term Forum Nokia collectively refers to both the support organization within Nokia Corporation and the individuals and companies supported by the organization.

[edit] The Loadstone team about their project

The Loadstone project was started in 2004 by Monty Lilburn and Shawn Kirkpatrick, both blind. Monty, Canadian and recently moved to Glasgow, Scotland, explains:

"Ever since first finding out about the GPS satellite network in the early 90's I knew this was something that was going to in time complement my mobility skills. It was just a case of waiting for the technology to be available. Of course the late 90's and early 2000's brought us GPS for the blind from the Sendaro group, then Visuaide and Humanware/pulse-data came out with solutions. The problem with all of these solutions was (and still is) cost.

In 2004 I purchased my first speech-enabled mobile phone (Nokia 6600 with Talks) and immediately saw the potential of having a portable device which could interface with a bluetooth GPS receiver. I communicated this idea with my good friend and excellent programmer Shawn who was back in Vancouver."

After two years of development a navigation program existed that was able to inform the user about marked points in the nearby environment. Using the joystick on the mobile phone the environment could be scanned and provided sufficient information to serve as a navigational aid. In May 2006 the duo decided to put the program at the disposal of other blind and visually impaired people with a need for a cheap, lightweight device that could inform them about their whereabouts. A good friend came up with the name Loadstone, a magnetic iron ore that had served as a compassneedle around 1000 AD.

In the summer of 2006 Shane Wegner and Rob Melchers joined the project, Shane as the webmaster of the Point Share Exchange, a web site that serves as the central deposit for navigational points and Rob from Amsterdam as the writer of the documentation and developer of the online-tools that compliment the use of the Loadstone program. Shane and Rob are also blind and have, like Monty and Shawn, long-time experience in programming and web development.

Where the initial development costs have been carried by Monty and Shawn, the future of the project relies on donations and eventually sponsorship.

Loadstone is free software under the GPL and the Loadstone team has the intention to keep it that way. Next to the further development of the program the most important thing is 'getting the word out', so that blind and visually impaired people from all over the world have access to an affordable and portable means of orientation.


[edit] Loadstone Website

[edit] What you could do for the Loadstone project?

  • Symbian programmers could download the Loadstone source code, become familiar with it and after that they could make concrete suggestions and contributions for improvements. There is a large to-do list.
  • A sponsor could invest in licenses for map data from companies like Navteq (soon bought by Nokia) or Tele Atlas (bought by TomTom). The licenses must allow for the distribution of the data, at least to blind and visually impaired users. Any form of data is useful and can be converted to the Loadstone format. If any technical information about this data is needed the Loadstone team will be glad to provide it.
  • You could help to translate the software user interface, documentation and release notes into other languages. Maybe this could happen in this free and hosted Blind Wiki. You could help to find volunteers and promoters for that work as well. Many blind people worldwide are not able to understand English and so they cannot use Loadstone.
  • You could help to convince vendors of Bluetooth GPS receivers like Holux, Royaltec or their supplier SIRF. Blind persons are pedestrians and need optimized receivers with best accuracy at low or no speed.[1] Therefore the firmware of standard products must be modified and a waterproof receiver box which could be fixed to clothes or e.g. the white cane would be fine too. Such a receiver would be ideal for blind users of commercial assistive GPS solutions and seeing customers with special needs as well.
  • You could help to get the software integrated into mobility training programs by blindness institutions and guidedog schools. Promotion in that direction would be appreciated.
  • Qualified programmers could try to port Loadstone to Windows Mobile. Since 2006 there are screen reader available for this platform as well. [2] [3]
  • There are many other imaginable ways to help. Please ask the Loadstone team or community.
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