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Hidden Park: Kids’ Outdoor Scavenger Hunt, iPhone Style

hiddenpark11The Hidden Park throws the whole techno-kitchen sink into creating an extraordinary scavenger/treasure hunt for kids. Clues about where to go for more clues are location-based and use GPS mapping. The game knows where you are and can serve up the right information. The phone’s built-in camera documents the landmarks (and you as the explorer) and the accelerometer brings the animals you find on the way to life on your iPhone screen. A game that employs the coolest technology and not a single person, fictitious or otherwise, is harmed in the experience. You even learn something about natural history, geo-coaching, and puzzle-solving. Wow.

Don’t spend your $6.99 on the download just yet, though. Hidden Park is park-specific. It’s now available in 10 parks around the world, including Central Park for New Yorkers like me.

The game begins with a video call from a troll who just happens to be the head of the Magical Wildlife Protection Association. The troll instructs the kids to save their park from nasty land developers. To do so, they’ll need to collect evidence of magical animals in the park.

Each park has certain designated landmarks that you navigate to using the iPhone’s built-in GPS. Because the iPhone knows your coordinates, it can trigger certain clues and puzzles at various waypoints. But the real “wow” comes when your young explorers photograph the landmarks. After taking a photo, give the iPhone a few shakes and hidden magical animals appear in the photo. Photos get stored in the iPhone as a picture memory of the day. An online community invites kids to share their adventures and photos.

Games like this one will proliferate as more and more hardware devices are location-aware. Of course, there’s bound to be a dark side of location-aware devices, too, but for the moment let’s give three cheers to The Hidden Park.

And special thanks to Hal Halprin for sending it my way.