While we can easily drive almost anywhere in the country with GPS-enabled navigation systems and apps like Google Maps, locating your way within large establishments like a mall or university is much harder. What exacerbates the problem is the frequent paucity of data and lack of GPS, Internet connectivity indoors. There have been several efforts to provide indoor directions, and Microsoft has taken a novel crowdsourced approach with its latest app – Path Guide for Android.
The Microsoft Path Guide app uses your Android smartphone’s sensors to map directions and orient users. Not relying on GPS or Wi-Fi connections, the app uses the smartphone’s built-in sensors to record a contributor’s the movements in a closed space, and allow them to share it with others.
It uses location-specific geomagnetic data combined with the user’s walking patterns to create a reference trace or route from starting location to the destination. Once recorded and associated with the place, the reference trace will be available for others who visit the same location. The navigation inside building complexes, malls, and other closed spaces without GPS and Wi-Fi can be a tad limiting for other users to know the details of that particular space, but it becomes handy in odd circumstances of no connectivity.
Inside the Path Guide app, you can either choose to ‘Take you, friends, somewhere’ or ‘Follow your steps back here’. While the first option will act as a guide compiled through the recording your movements inside the area, the second one is meant to assist you in flagging the places and locations you’ve visited inside a particular area. It can even track the floor of the building by using the barometer to detect the elevation levels. But these aren’t the only sources Microsoft uses to gather data about the indoor areas. The company also allows users to include audio, notes, and images to enhance the navigation for other users.
The Microsoft Path Guide also gives large shop owners and businesses the ability to customise routes with thematic labels of their shopping floors, indicating the buyers of the type of products being sold there, on a commercial level.
As we said, the Path Guide app is presently available only on the Android platform; it is likely that the Redmond giant will make this app available for the iOS users as well shortly.