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The Outdoors Digest | BRIEFS

The brave new forest

March 09, 2004|Joe Robinson

One of the last refuges from the e-leash of tech tools -- the wilderness -- is about to go digital.

A consortium of European firms involved in a project called WebPark has created a system that turns mobile devices into personal guide services, giving hikers, bikers and park explorers a running commentary on what they're seeing, where they are and how far it is to the next trail or landmark. It cannot yet tell you how many blisters you have.

Using Web and GPS technology, the system will soon plug park users from the Netherlands to Switzerland into a data stream that will send text, photos and video about the places they're visiting.

A high-tech version of the self-guided museum tour, WebPark can identify plant species, detail creatures in the vicinity or download maps or safety details. The information is sent wirelessly from servers to mobile devices and can provide data online and offline when there is sketchy mobile network coverage.

The service is not available in the U.S. -- yet.

The losers in the future forest? Nature guidebook sellers, wilderness trip leaders and a little thing called wonder.


-- Joe Robinson

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