Monday, 8 August 2011

The new virtual?

Hold your horses on that Munzee thing I was blogging about last week. Why would you need that QR code? It is the GPS functionality of your smartphone that can be checked to confirm you are on the right location to do a log attempt on the internet! No QR code hiding, no searching, just visiting the coordinates is good enough! Wouldn’t that be great? It looks like this will become reality as it is exactly what Groundspeak is going to do with the new virtual!

At first I thought the new virtual would be some kind of Wherigo-like application that gives you a code if you get close to specific coordinates. You would need this code to log the virtual cache on the internet. However, in a Globalcaching chat session, Bryan Roth denied the link between Wherigo and the new virtual. When I described Groundspeaks move from the standalone GPSr to the smartphone in my post on the new Geocaching website layout, it looks like I got even closer to the new virtual. I only did not do the math, replacing Wherigo with smartphone.

Last week Cumbyrocks on his blog ‘It’s not about the numbers’ did do the math and described a theory which is comparable to my theory about the new virtual, but based it on the smartphone. The result is what I described in the introduction of this article. I think Cumbyrocks got very close to what Groundspeak talks about as the new virtual. Here is a quote from Jeremy from the Groundspeak forums to support these thoughts:

"In the UserVoice updates I never said that virtuals were coming back in their previous form, but instead something would be available that should capture the interest in virtuals without the baggage (such as the subjective review process).

To me, this is the most exciting project that we’ve worked on in years, but it will take some time to iterate through the idea and I know we’ll get some things wrong, but the framework is solid. We’ll be investing a substantial amount of effort with this project moving forward.

Some points:

It will be on, not a new web site. It will be a separate section in the beta, but I expect it to be integrated into a joined search at some point.

Currently they will not go towards your find count, but it might at some point. It won’t at the beginning though.

It will be a visible statistic, so you will see them on the profile, on the logs, etc.

We’ll be hopefully launching with mobile applications to compliment the activity. I expect that the majority of participants will be using smartphones, but we will have components (Pocket Queries, GPX file downloads, etc) for traditional GPS devices.

The issue with to old virtual was that you needed the photo or the answer on a question to prove that you have been at the location. There was no box and no log to sign, the basics of Geocaching. Now, the internet connection and app functionality of the smartphone provides the opportunity to create a virtual box and write a digital log right from the spot!

I totally agree with Jeremy that this is one of the most exciting new projects. It gives a totally new approach to Geocaching, without going far from the basics. Without the approval process, this new virtual would be easier to create and appeal to more users to create such a cache. It also gives Geocaching a new advantage compared to rivals such as Opencaching and Munzee. Without the QR code, a virtual cache is easier to create and easier to find compared to a Munzee. And easy is the keyword nowadays. Compared to Opencaching, Geocaching will create something that appeals to a lot of Geocachers and something that Opencaching can never create, unless Garmin builds an internet connection into their GPSr devices.

Another thought is, that it was not Garmin who started the war with the Opencaching website but it was Groundspeak who are on the smartphone track for quiet some time already and put Garmin with their GPSr devices on the side of the road. To continue selling GPSr devices to Geocachers, the only option for Garmin was to start their own community, Opencaching. This also explains the messy Opencaching website, because they had to launch it quickly before Groundspeak openly embraces the smartphone as the main Geocaching attribute. But if you want more people Geocaching, like Groundspeak, I think the smartphone is the right track. Soon everybody has one and the only thing Groundspeak has to do is spread the message. Also, the smartphone opens doors for exciting new approaches to the game, like this new virtual.

Do you have your own theory about the new virtual or another remark to this post? Share them by writing a comment!

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