Monday, July 22, 2013

Better Hobbies: Geocaching and Augmented Reality

So I like photography, and I like interesting places, but not so much with people. I like empty places better than full ones. Places with people have dangers that places without them avoid. And I just spent 3 days with relatives. Ugh.

One of my relatives has poor sense of direction. This is ironic because he's a small plane pilot and mountain climber... but he gets lost easily and, suffering from the family arrogance, doesn't seem to believe in owning a map or a GPS. I suggested, after he got seriously lost going from here to his hotel on Friday a mere 5 miles and 7 turns, that he look into just getting a GPS for his car so that doesn't happen anymore. He was not interested. I don't understand that. His son is a fireman, dedicated to rescuing people from emergencies. You'd think he'd want his Dad to be safe, knowing how lost he gets. To not CAUSE emergencies due to getting lost. This must be a sore subject between them to dismiss my suggestion so quickly. But okay.

In the course of reading up on GPS, something I used to make data for, I got reminded of a weird hobby people have of hiding little messages or toys inside waterproof boxes hidden in various urban and rural locations, called Geo Caches. A Cache is a sort of stockpile you leave behind for later when you're out exploring some wild place. They've been building cairns with meat inside them to dry out on the tundra for 40 thousand years now. There are still lots of them up in the Arctic circle, with 6 foot tall rocks. For whatever reason, bears don't seem to bother with them.

A geocache is simpler, usually not food, like a poem or a picture or toy, inside a waterproof box, and since GPS units are cheap, they are getting reasonably common. Apparently, registering them properly also means Cops don't freak out when they find them in public places. I rather like that.

So I read some reviews and the prices are steadily dropping, features and battery life rising. I really need to do more research to figure out what to buy, assuming I buy one. I did spend 5 years in college learning to read and make maps, and did it professionally for a few years too. I've denied myself the potential joys of owning a GPS of my own. I suppose I need to narrow down the features I need vs price, and then think about features which might be fun but aren't crucial.

Having traffic updates would be nice. So would weather warnings, since they're now sending data through GPS satellites. I like that they have ones that are waterproof and have altimeters, and a slot for a data card. Gives you a lot of room for map updates that way. It looks like I should be aiming at a smaller one rather than larger as you'd use for driving. The alternative is to buy a Nexus 7 with the app and mini-USB antenna running and use that instead, which gives me the advantage of data updates and continuing Jenn's abandoned work of correcting web page data in WikiMapia. I LIKED her scholarly interests. She just gave them up like everything else. She doesn't endure the boring parts to keep going. Of course, if I DO get a Nexux 7, I will want one of those tooled leather holsters from Robotics; Notes which were actually kinda nice. If only the show hadn't gone all evil. I did like the style of it, however. One of the few Cyberpunk anime stories since Ghost in the Shell and . Virtual Reality out in the world is INTERESTING, and its coming into Google Glass (complete steal of Virtual Light from 1990 by William Gibson). The idea is to use the camera on a tablet then display the virtual objects overlaid on reality. That's easy with GPS directions because its just a perspective line running down the street with colors and arrows. Its probably simple with Geocaching as well, which was a big part of the plot in Robotics; Notes.

If only they'd admitted the stuff they find is actually just part of a "game" rather than an actual vicious murdering conspiracy. Particularly since other elements of the show were actually very nice, including the fact that the island being so big meant kids rode around on Supercubs rather than bicycles and every kid had one to get to high school. Tanoshima is a pretty large island, very long. Its where Japan had its space program, a foolhardy venture due to basic physics. There are still ruins there, rusting, of their pride and joy. Japan loves science and progress. A pity it doesn't fix their economy.

Anyway, Geocaching is relatively simple for finding and placing caches. Same with publishing the locations, and the boxes used are cheap. Looks like the true art to it is linking the caches to what you find in the box. How the journey explains the contents. Now take that and combine it with some coding, which I generally dislike but might find use for, such as possibly building a geolocated unlock key so if your device says you're here, you can use certain software, like MP3 or a puzzle game or whatever, and allows results to register on a database, unlocking further caches and instructions to reach them. A treasure hunt. Might make for an unusual bit of novel writing. Combined with motorcycling I could see that being an interesting detail for the next novel.

I am going to spend some time picking the right device for my needs. No rush. Much like the motorcycle, get the right one so you're happy. Research is cheap. Fixing mistakes can be expensive.
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