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HOME >> News >> Peer News

ADGETWISE; A Scavenger Hunt for Children, Led by GPS Gear

If you're looking for an activity for your children or grandchildren, you might try geocaching, a treasure-hunting game played by using GPS devices to find hidden containers, or geocaches, outdoors and then sharing the experiences online. A typical geocache treasure is an inexpensive but intriguing object, like a tiny Rubik's cube, a postcard or a coin from a different country. Sometimes the caches contain a Travel Bug with a code that can be tracked, so you can see where it's been.

Groundspeak, which creates location-based technology and has commercialized geocaching, offers a free iPhone app, Geocaching Intro. But if you don't have an iPhone, there is Apishere's Geomate.jr, a $70 hand-held GPS receiver that can lead a child to one of 250,000 geocache locations in the United States, preloaded in memory from Groundspeak's database.

The device takes two AAA batteries; after turning it on, you go outside to sync it with GPS satellites. You then scroll through a list of nearby geocaches, from an archived list. Updating the database requires an additional $25 cable and a Windows computer. There are no other fees.

I tried the Geomate.jr recently with some young geocachers in New Jersey. The device supplied an accurate stream of distance and direction information as we got closer to a cache. But there were no maps, and since we hadn't updated the database, the list of geocaches was outdated. Also, the start-up process was confusing; it is hard to imagine any child using this device without an adult's help.

Frustrated, my young friends grabbed for my iPhone to run the free app, where they found a map, cache descriptions and hints, none of which are on the Geomate.jr.

The company is working on an app for an Android phone. Bryan Roth, one of the co-founders of Groundspeak, said it was ''just now putting the finishing touches'' on that app. It is expected to be advertised on the site's home page next month for $9.99.

This is a more complete version of the story than the one that appeared in print.

http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9905EEDE143EF933A15756C0A9669D8B63&ref=gps


 
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