Alright, I’m going to level with you — I’m a bit of an inside kid. And by “bit,” I’ll say that a big day outside for me is sitting in the upper deck of a stadium watching a baseball game in the sun. In the winter months, I am more than happy to spend days on end inside, in the comfort of my warm apartment. Having been born and raised in Western New York, I’d say I’m a little bit of an outlier in that regard. I’ve never tried skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, or hunting; I’m not sure I’ve ever even been on a proper hike. I can’t really say why I’ve never tried these things. Maybe if I treated outdoor activities more like I treat the research that I do before I go to a new restaurant I’d be more apt to try them. Maybe not. Either way, I think it’s safe to say that there’s layers upon layers of information and experiences that I’ll miss out on if I never go out and try them.
This is where Orbitist comes in. One collaboration that we’re very proud of is the Roger Tory Peterson Institute of Natural History’s “Nature at Your Fingertips” winter trails cell phone tour. A great feature of Orbitist is that it allows map creators to serve two audiences: those who prefer to explore from the comfort of their own homes (me!), and those who decide to go out and experience points of interests firsthand. These audiences aren’t mutually exclusively either — if you’ve ever done some online research for a trip before you stepped out the front door, you automatically fall into both categories.
The tour, now in its third year, is designed to allow snowmobilers and hikers to supplement their Western New York trail adventures by calling in with any kind of cell phone at designated spots along the trail. Additionally, snowmobilers and hikers can look at pictures and videos through the use of a smartphone on the Orbitist map.
Elyse Henshaw, Conservation Technician, explains why Orbitist was a good fit for Roger Tory Peterson Institute’s third incarnation of the tour. “We started out working with a company called OnCell, and they were great, but we hit the limits of that program pretty quickly, especially the more we expanded on the tour. Their map platform was just a simple Google map with all the points pinned to it. So as you can imagine, this didn’t give us any room to be able to include any layers or other interesting features. With Orbitist, we have been able to truly deliver ‘place-based education’ that RTPI has historically been well known for doing.”
When replacing an existing provider, it is very important to to be able to give the client everything they already expect, while rolling in new features to serve them better. To serve RTPI with the cell phone call-in feature, we migrated them over to Phone.com. This preserved the established portion of the tour, while allowing RTPI to expand the tour using all kinds of multimedia on the Orbitist platform.
All of a sudden, users aren’t merely consuming audio from points of interest; they’re viewing pictures and video, listening to files hosted on Soundcloud, and even researching bed and breakfasts along the trails, all from within this single map. Try it out below!
We are also pleased that Orbitist’s integration and partnership with CartoDB is proving useful to map creators. Elyse continues, “…with Orbitist partnering with CartoDB, we’ve finally been able to overlay the snowmobile trails and some of the hiking trails, enabling users to know where they are on the trail and where the stops are, rather than the stops looking as if they are just pinned in random, unreachable places.“ Allowing map creators to connect points in this way enables users to explore points in a coherent and focused fashion, empowering them to completely envision their trip before embarking.
I still may never go on a snowmobile ride through the trails of western New York, but after spending some time on the winter trails map; listening to audio on all of the points and clicking through pictures and videos, I’ve gained a greater appreciation for my backyard. It is almost a guarantee that I’m familiar with the sound of a Ruffed Grouse, but only as a sound that I might describe as “bird.” Now I can connect the dots to that sound, knowing that there is an Canadaway Creek Wildlife Management Area that provides a perfect habitat for the Ruffed Grouse —all through one click on a point just a few miles from my childhood home!
“Overall, Orbitist has been a very good fit for us and for our ‘Nature at Your Fingertips’ cell phone tour.” Says Elyse, “We can tell so many fascinating stories to connect local and visiting winter outdoor recreationalists with Chautauqua County, hopefully encouraging them to come back year after year.”
We’re excited to embark on more projects like this; ones that appeal to the outdoorsmen, the urban explorer, the vacationer, the stay-at-home-on-the-couch-explorer, and everyone in between.
VIncent Quatroche is Senior Explorer at Orbitist. He hails from Western New York but has called New York City home since 2010. Have an idea for a place that you want explored on Orbitist? Contact him at [email protected]
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