Sunday, March 18, 2012

GPS App Maps History Sites


There are all kinds of GPS apps and various mapping programs to help users find new locations and interesting locations. There are geocaching-like games such as waymarking, beautiful locations with apps like Stand Here and even GPS-guided audio tours of some cities. But what if you simply want to see some historical or significant places while on a trip? Well, the app Next Exit History was designed with that exact goal in mind.

“One of the frustrations that all of us who have worked on this project have had with other apps and programs is that they are developed for one organization, one community or one geographical location and it places the burden on the user to fish around to find a particular app for wherever you are,” said Dave Strohmaier, Project Manager for Next Exit History. “We wanted to create a seamless experience for visitors so that you could have one app to travel around the world and access content both on and offline.”

The app, Next Exit History, was originally created by a group of historians and technologists at the University of West Florida in 2010 and soon garnered the interest of historical consulting firm Historical Research Associates, Inc., who is the current owner and operator of the website and accompanying app.

phonesNewAccording to Strohmaier, Next Exit History is one of the only programs of its kind that has professional historians and archaeologists on staff to vet and check all historical sites as opposed to simply providing user-submitted content.

“We’re not just providing a digital platform that is fully populated by users…We really want to offer something different, unique, and frankly a higher quality; something folks can depend on,” Strohmaier said.

The site currently boasts more than 60,000 pins around the world, offering different kinds of sites including museums, historical sites, national parks, historical trails, landmarks and more. But, it’s not just a series of pins on a map. Via a feature called Backpacking, users can check out multiple historical sites almost like a trail that is either geographically based or based on a theme, such as Lewis and Clark’s expedition. Users can also create their own and then download all that information to a mobile device for offline access.

In addition to mapping and backpacks, Next Exit History is constantly changing and growing. Not only did the app recently receive an update to make it more user-friendly, but the Historical Research Associates also introduced a new feature called History Hunters.

Halfway between the Park Service Junior Ranger program and Geocaching, History Hunters is a trivia and scavenger hunting game where users are encouraged to check out the historical sites, find new information and earn points and badges to share. Users can even “check in” at sites to start earning points immediately. This feature is still pretty new and the trivia and scavenger hunt portions are not available for all locations at the moment. However, Strohmaier said that the company is looking into expanding and adding new facets to the game and new locations.

Next Exit History is available for download to both Android and iOS devices and is completely free. All of the cost of the app is paid not by users, but by the companies and organizations that maintain and preserve the historical sites. This paradigm, Strohmaier said, is very important.

“We really want to make this as accessible to folks as possible,” Strohmaier said. ” If you’re interested in quality content, this is the app for you. If you’re interested in having a good time, exploring history and playing digital games along the way , this is also the app for you.”

For more information on Next Exit History or to sign up for an account to start exploring, visit the Next Exit History website.

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