There’s treasure to be found in the wilderness.
With your phone as a map and a compass, and the GPS satellites above you as your guide, you can walk out your front door right now and start searching for hidden treasure.
It’s called geocaching, and it leads hundreds of people through the great outdoors every year in search of adventure and the chance to find treasures left behind by those that have walked the same trails before them.
Once you find the hidden treasure (or maybe it’s just a logbook for finders to leave messages in) you can even leave a personal treasure of your own behind for someone else to find. These high-tech orienteering games have already begun incorporating video calling, but we can take that real-time, two-way connection further and use our everyday chat apps to turn geocaching into the world’s largest online treasure hunt.
Geocaching Across the U.S.
The treasures at the end of a geocaching hunt aren’t the Spanish doubloons and golden chalices of the pirate variety. In many versions of the game–and there are many versions–the reward is a web address where you can add your name and on-site picture alongside other successful hunters, or clues to other secret hunts that only the intrepid can undertake. Sometimes the coordinates lead you to a personal item left by the previous hunter, which you can keep as a trophy and replace with something of your own.
Either way, being part of the geocaching community is usually the big draw within an otherwise solo endeavor. You can start a hunt whenever you like, and there are several websites that keep databases of the coordinates of the treasure sites you’ll be chasing down.
Geocaching.com, for example, maintains millions of destinations around the world, and offers smartphone apps to get you started. You just register your name online, enter the desired coordinates into your phone, and follow the directions until you find yourself hunting through the branches of a special tree standing in a clearing in your local parkland.
The Geological Society of America operates its own educational version of geocaching, and goes so far as to host international tournaments. Here at VC Daily, though, we think the hunts become a lot more interesting once webcams, USBs, and QR codes are added to the game.
Webcams in the Wilderness
There are 127 public geocaching webcams in operation throughout the U.S. Most of them are just used to take and upload a photo as proof of a successful hunt. In addition, there are hundreds of USB sticks and QR codes of all shapes and sizes waiting to be uncovered and used to link the geocacher with the organizer’s home website.
That’s a novel way of proving you can navigate through the world with your phone, but it’s hardly pushing the technology to its limits. These devices should be thought of as a way to launch a new interactive phase of the game, rather than a symbolic end. If I’d been trekking for hours through hostile terrain, I’d want a real human on the other end of my webcam to hear just what I’d been through.
Even better, I’d want them to give me some cryptic clue that would lead me on another adventure, toward another online milestone.
Live Streaming Your Treasure Hunt
VC Daily has previously pondered the possibilities of using video calling to create a more interactive, more challenging form of Pokemon Go by combining video conferencing and augmented reality. Geocaching is a similar game, although the destination is clear from the start, and it is ripe for the same treatment.
The game could begin as it currently does, with a set of coordinates fed into your phone. After that first mission is accomplished, however, the hunters could use a QR code to initiate a live video call back to geocaching HQ. Browser-based video conferencing apps like Appear.in can handle calls between strangers without either video calling having to share any personal info. Once that live connection is made there’s no limit to how the game evolves.
HQ could pass on a verbal clue to the next video calling point, provide a live update on the progress of your rivals in tournament play, or assign additional tasks that must be cleared before the new coordinates are revealed.
Obviously the same applies when using a public webcam, but a QR code or mobile-compatible USB can be hidden in far smaller locations without disturbing the surroundings. Maybe, with live video calling added to the equation, you and a few friends could be forced to form a human pyramid before your remote guide feeds you the GPS coordinates that will get you closer to that hidden treasure.