Our favourite smartphone navigation software, Viewranger, just got a whole lot more interesting with the launch of a new 'augmented reality' feature called Skyline.
It's being rolled out to iOS devices already with other platforms to follow and it looks great in a slightly futuristic way. In a nut-shell you get two neat new features:
First, if you press on the Skyline icon on the app screen it activates a view through the phone's camera. Once you've downloaded the appropriate data files for the area, peaks and other geographical features are labelled on the screen. The idea is that you know instantly exactly which mountain you're looking at.
Second, when you're following a route using Viewranger, activating the same screen brings up a distinctive blue arrow showing you which direction to walk in. As far as we're aware, that's unique to Viewranger and ingeniously cuts out the process of orientating on-screen maps and using electronic compasses. Clever stuff.
Coincidentally we've had hands-on experience of a prototype version of the app on a group walk in our local Peak District hills. The feature-labelling ability isn't unique, Peakscanner, for one, does much the same thing, but the on-screen navigation arrow is intriguing.
We found it a real boon at path junctions where there were several options in roughly similar directions for example and we reckon it could be even more handy at night or in low visibility.
The downside with the prototype at least, is that it did seem to use a fair amount of power. That said, we were making a point of trying Skyline features, so in normal use, it should be a little less battery sapping.
And of course you don't have to use Skyline features if you don't want to. The rest of the app works just as well as ever. It's simply an additional option that you can choose to use or not depending on your personal preference.
Finally, before we're savaged by trad nav zealots, yes of course you should also carry a map and compass and know how to use them.
You can find more details at www.viewranger.com/en-gb/skyline/outdoor-navigation-reinvented or for an unashamedly trans-Atlantic take on the new features, check out the video below.