ViewRanger is one of the leading apps to help you get around the trails, with live navigation and searchable routes. It's got offline mapping too, which means you can turn your phone into a fully fledged GPS even when you've got no mobile reception. But ViewRanger has now developed an augmented reality feature for its app called Skyline, which brings the trails to life.
We caught up with Oli Reed at ViewRanger who explained what it's all about...
What is Skyline?
Skyline is a new augmented reality feature within the ViewRanger app that uses the camera on your phone to annotate and interact with the landscape around you.
Skyline identifies features such as peaks, towns, villages, lakes, cliffs, ridgelines, bays and even glaciers within a 20-mile radius of where you’re standing, then overlays their names across the landscape. If you’re following a route you’ve downloaded within ViewRanger [such as one of the excellent Mountain Biking UK routes], a series of blue directional arrows will appear in front of you, showing you which direction to ride.
Just like the rest of the ViewRanger app it’s free to use and works anywhere in the world, apart from the polar regions, without the need for phone signal or mobile data.
Why would I want to use it?
Skyline effectively tells you what you’re looking at and shows you which way to travel — and finally delivers an answer to the classic “what hill is that on the horizon?” question. Skyline certainly doesn’t replace the need to use a conventional 2D map, but will hopefully be a big help for people who want to navigate but so far haven’t had the confidence in their map-reading skills to do so.
For example, in low cloud or fog the appearance of labels or navigational arrows on your phone screen provides instant reassurance that you’re heading the right way. It’s also great for learning more about the route you’re following because photographs and facts will pop up at the relevant points along your ride, creating an ongoing narrative as you travel through the landscape.
How does it work?
I’ll keep this as simple as I possibly can… Skyline uses augmented reality technology that mixes the real world, as seen through your phone’s camera, with ViewRanger map data. The app then uses location, gyroscopic and other sensors in your phone to pinpoint your location, while also taking into account factors such as the direction you’re facing and how tall you are.
Skyline is then able to understand the landscape around the handset, allowing data and information to be placed directly into it. When combined with the view through the camera, this creates the Skyline view.
What are your top five ways to get the most out of it?
1. Download and save maps
Like the rest of the ViewRanger app, Skyline works offline, but for that to happen you must have the relevant area of map downloaded and stored on your device. So, before you set off on your outdoor adventure, use a WiFi connection to select and save a section of mapping slightly larger than the area you intend to explore to make sure you’ll be fully covered on your trip.
2. Plan your route in advance
Skyline’s navigational arrows will only appear if you’re following a pre-planned route, so either plot your own or choose one of over 100,000 routes already created within ViewRanger. Like the maps, it’s best to download routes when you have WiFi in case you don’t have connection when you reach your destination.
3. Head for the hills
Although it looks great in towns and cities, Skyline’s labelling feature is at its best in open countryside with plenty of peaks on the horizon. This is when the directional arrows come into their own too, helping you navigate across featureless terrain.
4. Choose the right phone case
If you’re using your smartphone or tablet to navigate, it makes sense to get a rugged case that will protect it from bumps, scrapes and weather. But be warned, cases containing metal can interfere with your device’s compass, so in turn may affect the performance of Skyline and the ViewRanger app in general. Waterproof phone pouches are also a great way of protecting your phone from the elements without stopping you seeing what’s on the screen.
5. Preserve your battery
All phones have differing battery life, but keeping the camera viewfinder active for hours on end will have a negative impact on any device. The best thing to do is either exit Skyline when you aren’t using it and revert back to your regular ViewRanger map view, or lock your screen when you aren’t looking at it. Skyline also works in Airplane mode, which is a great battery saver, while activating Low Power Mode in your battery settings (if available on your device) has a similar impact. If you’re planning a long trip, it’s also a good idea to carry a portable power pack to recharge your phone.