Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Do You Wherigo?

I love Wherigos.  I’ve found about 2 dozen so far in Southeastern Michigan and Ohio.  I think they’re a great way to tour an area – learn the history and see the sights.  In many instances, it’s like having a personal tour guide.  

Top (R): iPhone Wherigo App
Bottom (R): Android's WhereYouGo App
Left: Garmin Oregon 450T screen

In case you’ve never crossed paths with one:

Wherigo is a toolset for creating and playing GPS-enabled adventures in the real world. By integrating a Wherigo experience, called a cartridge, with finding a geocache, the geocaching hunt can be an even richer experience. Among other uses, Wherigo allows geocachers to interact with physical and virtual elements such as objects or characters while still finding a physical geocache container. A Wherigo-enabled GPS device is required to play a cartridge. Learn more at

In essence, you download a game cartridge into your smartphone or Wherigo-enabled Garmin and follow the instructions.  Some will lead you spot to spot (called ‘zones’) – once you reach the zone you will be given directions to find the next one.  Some will ask you questions at each zone before you can move to the next location.  At the end, you are given coordinates to find the final cache container.

Done right – they are a blast.

People gripe that it’s ‘exclusionary’ because you have to have a Wherigo player to do this.  I say BULL-PUCKY! Most people have smartphones and the cartridges work on the iPhone (using the Wherigo app) and Android phones (using the WhereYouGo app). In addition, one of the most fabulous aspects of this game is the community aspect of it.  I didn’t have an NFC-enabled phone so I teamed up with a group to grab the NFC POC cache – it was a hoot!

I’m just about to publish my first Wherigo (super secret right now – more coming!). I tested my cartridge on an iPhone 3, iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S3 and an Oregon 450T.  Now, Wherigo cartridges aren’t perfect (they are still in beta testing and the cartridges have to be compatible to run across multiple platforms), so I thought I’d list a few useful tips when running one so you have an enjoyable experience:

1. Wherigo cartridges are created to run on multiple devices.  As a result, screen sizes can be a concern.  If you see an image but no text, scroll down.

2. For my Wherigo, there is a lot of tree cover.  If you “stop tracking” when heading to a zone, walk away and walk back.

3. I’m going to get controversial here…. GPSrs and smartphones have different levels of GPS accuracy (Yes, I’ve heard all about ‘today’s smartphones are just as good….” but I do a lot of Metropark caching and don’t buy that in tree cover….).  So, if you are running a Wherigo cartridge with someone using another type of device, “zone” results will vary.  You may have to walk an addition 20 feet depending on the level of accuracy calculated when you started the cartridge.

4. If your smartphone freezes, quit the cartridge, start it again, and press “Resume” to continue your game.

5. One of the downsides of using a GPSr unit is that if it freezes you may lose the entire game and have to start again.  When this has occurred, I’m batting about 50/50 whether I have to start it over again or not.

6. Since most Wherigos take a bit of time investment to run, TaGeez and I will take multiple devices (his Android, my iPhone and/or Garmin GPSr) with us.  That way, if we have any technical difficulties with one, we can continue with another device.

7. Finally, the Wherigo creator went through a lot of trouble creating this experience for you.  Make sure you block off enough time to walk through it, reading the screens and looking at pictures, and enjoy it.  I have yet to see a Wherigo park-and-grab.

I’ll let you know when I release my super-secret project soon and share all the fabulous details!

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