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The Future of Geocaching


NYPaddleCacher
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Last weekend I attended a conference in Monterey. The first day I was there I went out for a walk and after a couple of hours had found 10 caches. Although almost all of them were micros I searched for a couple of 4 star difficulty (both DNFs) and found a couple of 3 star difficulty caches. All in all I had fun . But that's not what this post is about.

 

Over the past week I have been working on a presentation for a "technical round table" I'll be speaking at in a couple of week that essentially covers what I saw while at the conference, augmented by my own research. The topic will basically be on emerging mobile technologies and during the course of my research I wonder if I've found what may be the future of Geocaching. And that is, augmented reality.

 

I've come across various sites on augmented reality over the past copule of month but have done a bit more in depth research. Augmented Reality (or AR) is basically what you see in real life (typically through a camera) with a layer of data on top of it. For example, using a smart phone (there are AR apps for several models) one can "point it" it at the sky, and on top of the image, a data layer which describes the constellations or planets within view of the camera can be displayed. As you move the camera across the site, the description of what you're seeing in reality is augmented with data acquired based on location and direction at which the mobile device is pointing.

 

A video tells a better story:

 

Take a look at the app that is available now for the iPhone that will find the nearest subway station in New York:

 

 

Most of the augmented reality applications are using something called LAYAR, an augmented reality browser that runs on the iPhone (3GS) and Android platforms. LAYAR allows you to create "layers" of data on top of what the camera is seeing and display it us a browser like interface. There are currently 203 layers available with everything from a augmented reality tour of an arboretum at Purdue University, to a bunch of social networking apps, such as one that will show you where someone else that is posting on Twitter is located.

 

Wondering what this has to do with geocaching. Imagine that instead of subway stations in New York a layer could be created from a Pocket Query. As you walk (or drive) throw an area the display will show you where the nearests geocaches are located.

 

Wondering if this could be used for navigation? Take a look at an application called Wikitude Navigation

 

These apps are not something in the far off future. They're available now, primarily on the iPhone and Android mobile platforms. Search for Augmented Reality in the Apple AppStore and you'll get about about 50 results of various AR apps. Some of them are free.

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NYPaddleCacher, you might want to look into "werigo" caches. :) It has the rudiments of augmented reality already.

 

However, expanded augmented reality geocaching might be a neet trick. :D

 

I don't see any reason why you couldn't develop puzzle caches using augmented reality, using the technology you described. It would limit the audience, but it would be fun.

Edited by Arrow42
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NYPaddleCacher, you might want to look into "werigo" caches. :) It has the rudiments of augmented reality already.

 

However, expanded augmented reality geocaching might be a neet trick. :D

 

I don't see any reason why you couldn't develop puzzle caches using augmented reality, using the technology you described. It would limit the audience, but it would be fun.

 

When Wherigo caches become available on the iPhone I may look for them. There were a few of them in Monterey but the closest one to where I live is about 35 miles away. I'm not going to buy new hardware just to do a handful of Wherigo caches.

 

Creating a geocache layer for the LAYAR augmented reality browser would just be another way to navigate to traditional (or the first stage of a multi) cache. Instead of following a compass or navigating with a traditiona base map on a GPS, the "base map" would be like looking at the display screen on a digital camera (but would be on a mobile "phone").

 

A couple of weeks ago I posted about the new Garmin Nuviphone, which I though at the time was the latest thing in GPS navigation. When the new Google Maps GPS Navigation app on the new Droid phone came out stock in Garmin and TomTom both went down. See it

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I was starting to get a headache until I got to the demo clips--this looks like fantastic technology. But, the only problem I see is the cost, as I refuse to pay $100/month to get this type of access on a cell phone. I'm not cheap, but I won't pay a hefty monthly tab for something I would use infrequently.

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Take a look at the app that is available now for the iPhone that will find the nearest subway station in New York:

 

Umm... I use that function on my GPS a lot, in the city. Doesn't work with bus routes, but, after wandering about the city, it's great for finding the nearest subway station! No, Gupy, try again. I need the 6, not the F!

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...I wonder if I've found what may be the future of Geocaching. And that is, augmented reality.

I've seen the subway app before and I thought it was neat.

 

How do you envision AR to be applied to geocaching? Sure I suppose you could have sort of a heads up display, but would it really help or just be a neat, gee-whiz toy?

 

As for the navigation, my opinion is I like the recognition of the caution signs and such. However, the display with the real-time outside world is far too busy. As someone who has to drive fast and uses a GPS to know where the turns are coming up, I very much prefer a high-contrast display. I can pick up the turns much further in advance than demonstrated in the videos--and at a glance. That's a major drawback in AR--little to no "look ahead." When you're going slow in the city, that's fine. Not so much at speed.

 

Personally, I like to look at things. Having my eyes glued to a screen is not really an advancement. Now, change that to audio instructions only, then you might have something. Folks kind of expect you to have earbuds in and if you use a skeleton earpiece like I do which does not block outside sound, then you've got something. Just have it ever so often, or at a push of a button, declare distance, speed, bearing, or whatever. alert you to upcoming turns, tell you which way to face, etc. then you can enjoy the view.

 

I can just hear it now, "No, your other left!"

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I was kind of thinking along the lines of a new way to build offset caches...

 

For multi caches... you could use AR instead of tags instead of relying on physical tags or existing numbers.

 

For a puzzle cache... maybe a giant maze superimposed over a field.

 

Maybe even take it a step further... maybe the next gen geocaching GPS device could could superimpose a circle on the ground where GZ should be with expected GPS accuracy deciding the radius of the circle.

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Maybe even take it a step further... maybe the next gen geocaching GPS device could could superimpose a circle on the ground where GZ should be with expected GPS accuracy deciding the radius of the circle.

That's one of the things I had thought about, but I don't see how that would add to the hobby.

 

The other stuff is very "Wherigo-ish." Too bad it seems like that spin off is no longer being developed.

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[off-topic]

Next time you are coming to the Northern California area, drop me a line if you need/want a caching partner. I'm always up for social caching!

[/off-topic]

 

Thanks, but I'm not sure when I'll get out that way again. I have family in the central valley and up north (Red Bluff). I'm hoping to attend the same conference next year so I might be back next October.

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After reading this thread it is apparent that it is difficult to explain how AR can apply to Geocaching until someone writes a functioning layer for one of the apps and publishes a video.

 

I installed Layar on my new Motorola Droid. It is a free AR app for android phones and I loaded it up and tried the usual wiki layer and local results. Because I have submitted content to Google Maps via Panoramio.com I instictively located this layer and tried it out..way cool!

 

You would have to see it in action, so do a Youtube search for Layar or AR apps on the iPhone or Androic.. you see through the camera lens you surrounding, then you seen icons overlayed on the moving image of information. In the example I used above, Panoramio layer shows the photos that are within the user defined search range, so when my range was 1km you could see in the horizon of the camera view the images I took at the nearby park that are shared live on Google maps & Panoramio (See my photos here: http://www.panoramio.com/user/1928966) For example, knowing the direction the park was and rotating the camera view, I saw what was beyond my own dining room walls what was across the neighborhood in a park, a picture I took of a tree. There on my screen was it's image thumbnail, its distance and direction from my current location. Other icons for other local photos could be seen in the same general direction and my simply touching the floating icons the data about them appears.

 

Geocaching using AR would alert you while driving in the MAPS mode of nearby caches, then in "REALITY" mode you would see the cache as an icon in the viewfinder and the loc data will be in the lower info pane. Picture terminator vision through your camera lens onto your touchscreen device.

 

Yes, this would take more of the challenge out of large obvious cache locations but micro caches would still require the usual geo senses.

 

I love caching but find it more and more difficult to match the opportunity to cache with the pre-preparation of searching and printing cache sheets.

 

My new Droid and the Geobeagle app is going to be my first real paperless caching, add AR caching layer and it would be the perfect spontaneous caching machine.

 

If someone creates and publishes such a layer for layar please contact me..

 

Ben

 

WBBenny

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NYPaddleCacher, you might want to look into "werigo" caches. ;) It has the rudiments of augmented reality already.

 

However, expanded augmented reality geocaching might be a neet trick. :)

 

I don't see any reason why you couldn't develop puzzle caches using augmented reality, using the technology you described. It would limit the audience, but it would be fun.

 

When Wherigo caches become available on the iPhone I may look for them. There were a few of them in Monterey but the closest one to where I live is about 35 miles away. I'm not going to buy new hardware just to do a handful of Wherigo caches.

Have you checked out the GPS Missions iphone app?
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NYPaddleCacher, you might want to look into "werigo" caches. ;) It has the rudiments of augmented reality already.

 

However, expanded augmented reality geocaching might be a neet trick. :huh:

 

I don't see any reason why you couldn't develop puzzle caches using augmented reality, using the technology you described. It would limit the audience, but it would be fun.

 

When Wherigo caches become available on the iPhone I may look for them. There were a few of them in Monterey but the closest one to where I live is about 35 miles away. I'm not going to buy new hardware just to do a handful of Wherigo caches.

Have you checked out the GPS Missions iphone app?

 

I haven't seen GPS Missions yet but I'll check it out. I've also downloaded an app called iSpy, another GPS game. In this case, instead of hiding a cache you take a phone of something with your camera. It gets geotagged and uploaded to a site somewhere. Other players can the search for photos (I have yet to see any in my area), navigate to the coordinates using the GPS, then take an upload a photo which matches the original. There is also a "review"mode that allows any player to compare photos other players have submitted and vote on whether or not it matches the original. There are some pretty clever photos that have been done.

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After reading this thread it is apparent that it is difficult to explain how AR can apply to Geocaching until someone writes a functioning layer for one of the apps and publishes a video.

 

I installed Layar on my new Motorola Droid. It is a free AR app for android phones and I loaded it up and tried the usual wiki layer and local results. Because I have submitted content to Google Maps via Panoramio.com I instictively located this layer and tried it out..way cool!

...

 

Geocaching using AR would alert you while driving in the MAPS mode of nearby caches, then in "REALITY" mode you would see the cache as an icon in the viewfinder and the loc data will be in the lower info pane. Picture terminator vision through your camera lens onto your touchscreen device.

 

If someone creates and publishes such a layer for layar please contact me..

 

Ben

 

WBBenny

 

That's what I'm talking about. It doesn't seem like it would be that difficult to create a geocache layar that pulled in waypoints an d descriptions from Groundspeak but I suspect it would be up to Groundspeak to produce it.

 

Augmented Reality apps are going to be a hot app category in the next few years, especially when 4G networks start getting deployed. Imagine if the iPad had a compass and camera available or bluetooth enabled AR headsets become publicly available. "Terminator" vision may not be in the not so distant future.

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All great in theory, but have you actually tried to use one of these? Like AroundMe, or any of the other ones out there? You use it once or twice, see the potential, but end up finding it mostly impractical and useless.

 

Three major *practical* problems:

 

1) The iPhone (and Android) compasses are sketchy at best. While the GPS is somewhat accurate, the compass is easy to interfere with, and is often off by 90-degrees or more. This makes the directional stuff useless.

 

2) None of these apps take into account geography, they just do line-of-sight. That works fine if things are < 200 feet (in the city), but anything further and it's much more effective to use a map application, with walking/driving distances and directions, to make a decision where to go.

 

3) While the GPS in the iPhone is okay, it's only accurate to about 100 feet (worse with lots of buildings). For a restaurant, that could be block or more off. Couple that with the horribly innacurate geocoding of most addresses, and again, this gets sort of useless, and maps/directions are much more effective.

 

So until we have a device with a rock-solid compass, 30-foot accurate GPS (in the city), and major improvements in the geocoding of addresses, this is just a cool demo, and will never gain any sort of significant adoption.

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In a parallel universe Geocaching is coopted by a sci-fi writer into a faux religion.

 

The inquisition...

 

The confession of caching sins...

 

The excommunication of those who hide blinkies in the forest...

 

The discovery of the immaculate cache...

 

The great purge of false FTFers...

 

The crusade to preserve the parklands from developers...

 

It is interesting.

Edited by DragonsWest
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All great in theory, but have you actually tried to use one of these? Like AroundMe, or any of the other ones out there? You use it once or twice, see the potential, but end up finding it mostly impractical and useless.

 

Three major *practical* problems:

 

1) The iPhone (and Android) compasses are sketchy at best. While the GPS is somewhat accurate, the compass is easy to interfere with, and is often off by 90-degrees or more. This makes the directional stuff useless.

 

2) None of these apps take into account geography, they just do line-of-sight. That works fine if things are < 200 feet (in the city), but anything further and it's much more effective to use a map application, with walking/driving distances and directions, to make a decision where to go.

 

3) While the GPS in the iPhone is okay, it's only accurate to about 100 feet (worse with lots of buildings). For a restaurant, that could be block or more off. Couple that with the horribly innacurate geocoding of most addresses, and again, this gets sort of useless, and maps/directions are much more effective.

 

So until we have a device with a rock-solid compass, 30-foot accurate GPS (in the city), and major improvements in the geocoding of addresses, this is just a cool demo, and will never gain any sort of significant adoption.

 

Regarding point #2. Navigating to a geocache doesn't take into account physical barriers either. I recall trying to navigate to a waypoint in Rome when I got within 200' a couple of times before finding the right narrow "street" that I needed to take to get to where I wanted to go. The previously mentioned LAYAR browser has an AR view and a map view that can be toggled just as one can switch from map to satellite view on google maps.

 

This thread *is* about the future of geocaching thus I suspect that there will be some hardware improvements over the next few years. I doubt that AR navigation will be accurate enough to ffind a nano on a steel bridge but even with todays handheld GPS accuracy all it's going to do is get you close enough in order to let geosense kick in.

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All great in theory, but have you actually tried to use one of these? Like AroundMe, or any of the other ones out there? You use it once or twice, see the potential, but end up finding it mostly impractical and useless.

 

Three major *practical* problems:

 

1) The iPhone (and Android) compasses are sketchy at best. While the GPS is somewhat accurate, the compass is easy to interfere with, and is often off by 90-degrees or more. This makes the directional stuff useless.

 

2) None of these apps take into account geography, they just do line-of-sight. That works fine if things are < 200 feet (in the city), but anything further and it's much more effective to use a map application, with walking/driving distances and directions, to make a decision where to go.

 

3) While the GPS in the iPhone is okay, it's only accurate to about 100 feet (worse with lots of buildings). For a restaurant, that could be block or more off. Couple that with the horribly innacurate geocoding of most addresses, and again, this gets sort of useless, and maps/directions are much more effective.

 

So until we have a device with a rock-solid compass, 30-foot accurate GPS (in the city), and major improvements in the geocoding of addresses, this is just a cool demo, and will never gain any sort of significant adoption.

 

Regarding point #2. Navigating to a geocache doesn't take into account physical barriers either. I recall trying to navigate to a waypoint in Rome when I got within 200' a couple of times before finding the right narrow "street" that I needed to take to get to where I wanted to go. The previously mentioned LAYAR browser has an AR view and a map view that can be toggled just as one can switch from map to satellite view on google maps.

 

This thread *is* about the future of geocaching thus I suspect that there will be some hardware improvements over the next few years. I doubt that AR navigation will be accurate enough to ffind a nano on a steel bridge but even with todays handheld GPS accuracy all it's going to do is get you close enough in order to let geosense kick in.

 

I disagree - A GPS is effectively the same as a map-based application/location finder. By viewing it on a map, you can see exactly how to get there - ether via roads, trails, whatever. It's an overhead view.

 

AR (in its current form) is completely different, and doesn't take that into account. It makes it virtually useless in terms of actually finding your way to the destination (if it's more than 100-200 feet away).

 

Thus my point that it's not the same, and using a GPS (that is more than a compass) gives the user the information needed to take into account physical barriers, etc. But AR doesn't.

 

Anyway, AR is a cool toy, but no one uses it for more than a few minutes, goes "cool", then goes back to using a GPS/map tool.

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It's not the future, it's here! :)

 

Wearable Displays already allow you to superimpose GPS navigation data so that it can be seen through eyeglasses!

 

Here is one company that sells them - http://www.microvision.com/wearable_displa...on_gallery.html

 

directions.jpg

 

pov2.jpg

 

I can see it coming... the day when we'll all wear these glasses for everything!

 

This technology was designed to advance the now-aging state-of-the-art Heads-up Display, a video monocle like the pilots of today's Apache helicopters use. The monocle is mounted inside the helmet and when fighting (the only thing the Apache is good for... but it's mighty fine for that!) the crew member swings the monocle in front of one eye.

 

They must train their eyes to work independently; one eye sees the real world and one sees data and images in the monocle. Their brain combines what each eye sees to give them a complete visualization of the outside world and the aircraft's systems.

 

That technology is here, in fact it's the only way you can fly an Apache, the only reason we don't have this in automobiles today is that it is the rare human who can train his eyes to focus independently... or brain to keep up with two data streams. And the cost, of course.

 

The eyeglass-style Wearable Display eliminates the need for independent vision and you can bet that we'll be seeing this technology go mainstream soon!

 

I want it now! :P

 

BTW - Mitsubishi lost a lot of money back in 2004 developing the failed SCOPO, a somewhat similar technology, but my guess is that whoever gets this right first is going to be the next tech stock rocket!

Edited by TheAlabamaRambler
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That technology is here, in fact it's the only way you can fly an Apache, the only reason we don't have this in automobiles today is that it is the rare human who can train his eyes to focus independently... or brain to keep up with two data streams. And the cost, of course.

Absolutely - you can get pinpoint accuracy in heading (compass) and location (GPS) if you buy an Apache helicopter.

 

However we're still a loooooooong way from the accuracy being good enough in consumer devices to support anything better than a map view.

 

AR is way too dependent on heading/compass to work in the near future, except maybe in moving vehicles where direction is deduced based on delta coordinates (and not a compass), and you can't spin on center.

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That technology is here, in fact it's the only way you can fly an Apache, the only reason we don't have this in automobiles today is that it is the rare human who can train his eyes to focus independently... or brain to keep up with two data streams. And the cost, of course.

Absolutely - you can get pinpoint accuracy in heading (compass) and location (GPS) if you buy an Apache helicopter.

 

However we're still a loooooooong way from the accuracy being good enough in consumer devices to support anything better than a map view.

 

AR is way too dependent on heading/compass to work in the near future, except maybe in moving vehicles where direction is deduced based on delta coordinates (and not a compass), and you can't spin on center.

 

As a Technology Strategist (part of my working title), a point that I have had to make on more than a couple of occasions recently is that technologies are not always mutually exclusive. Different technologies can inter-operate and even if they're not fully integrated they can still be complimentary.

 

I wasn't suggest that AR would be a technology that would replace current technology used in geocaching. Even if it can't provide the accuracy of a handheld GPS with coordinates with 6' precision, it might make the journey at bit interesting. I don't rely solely on my GPS to find caches. I use it to get to the general vicinity then use my experience and logic to try to figure out where the cache is hidden.

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