Word Lens – A fantastic, practical AR application


I love seeing highly practical applications for augmented reality like this. Word lens is brilliant!

I can’t help but wonder how technology like this will continue to breakdown language barriers in the future. With instant access to translation will it become easier to learn other languages, or make learning other languages completely unnecessary?


Official Announcement: SCVNGR trek is done!


Yep, it’s finally finished! I put in lots of work and I’m thrilled with the outcome. I’m still interested in any feedback that users would like to share, but I think that it will be a fun experience for most people.

Even though the trek itself may seem simple and fun to do, there were a lot of decisions that went into planning it.


Mobile technology and location-based gaming is growing in popularity and I don’t think it’s going away for a long time. I wanted to see how I could use that technology to help get people outside and to an organization I care about (and work for), the Urban Ecology Center.

There are plenty of other location-based mobile games for smart phones out there, but when I learned about SCVNGR I knew it was exactly what I was looking for. SCVNGR allows you to string together a series of “challenges” into a trek. Challenges must be completed in a specific location and can include responding to an open-ended question, answering a question with a specific right answer, taking a photo, or scanning a QR code.

Although many people have smart phones these days, one of the really fantastic things about SCVNGR treks is that they can be played via text messages. So, those of us with “dumb phones” don’t feel excluded!

In addition to being exactly what I was looking for, a SCVNGR staff member was extremely helpful in helping me get set up. After learning that Marquette has a SCVNGR trek for it’s campus, I got in touch with the guy I thought was responsible for setting it up, Tim Cigelske (@TeecycleTim). Turns out that a guy named Jeff Kirchick (@jeffreykirchick), the Universities and Independent Schools Specialist at SCVNGR set it up. Tim got me in touch with Jeff (Thanks, Tim!), who was happy to hear about my interest in SCVNGR. He also granted me capacity to create a trek, something you normally have to pay for (Thanks, Jeff!), and had a lot of helpful tips and pointers for trek creation.

With that, I began building the “Explore Riverside Park” trek.

Trek Overview

This trek is meant to be a fun way for visitors to experience the Urban Ecology Center through a mobile gaming medium. I had three main goals in mind for the trek:

  • To help people discover some of the unique, fun and educational features of the Urban Ecology Center.
  • To teach users something about the organization and about nature in a fun way.
  • To get people out into Riverside Park and help them to gain some appreciation for it.

The Challenges of creating “Challenges”

There are tons of things to do at the Urban Ecology Center and many features of the building that are worth pointing out to people, but I really wanted to focus on some of the main highlights and leave a couple of things for people to wonder about and ask one of the knowledgeable employees or volunteers. A little human interaction never hurt anyone!

I also found it difficult to point out some features in a way that makes sense in the SCVNGR challenge format. For example, the flooring on the second story of the building was salvaged from a local school gymnasium and is over 100 years old. Pretty cool, right? But how would I point that out in a challenge? I couldn’t figure it out.

So, I narrowed my many options down to 6, and I think they’re pretty good! There are three photo challenges, two specific text response questions, and one QR code challenge. Even though I think the QR code scanning is fantastic, I limited myself to only using one, because those challenges are not available to people playing via text message.

Overall, I think it’s a fun balance of building exploration, education, and nature exploration. I created this fun promo video so you can see for yourself:

In addition to video, I created a prezi to give an overview of SCVNGR, the Urban Ecology Center, why I created the trek and to show some screen shots of the SCVNGR app on my iPod touch. Feel free to take a look at it:

And here are some of the screen shots of the app:

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So, go, play the trek! Have fun! Then tell me about it!

SCVNGR Trek Update: I need help testing it!


The SCVNGR trek I’ve been working on is coming along! It is currently live on SCVNGR, but this isn’t quite the official announcement of it yet. I’ve tested it a bit myself and had my friend Walter at the Urban Ecology Center help test it with his Android. The few bugs I discovered have been fixed (I think) and I’m almost ready to call it done. But, I think it could use a bit more testing, especially by non-Urban Ecology Center folks.

Do you have an iPhone or Android and about half an hour to try the “Explore Riverside Park” trek and let me know how it goes?

  • If so, please go to the Urban Ecology Center’s Riverside Park location and try out the trek. Or, if you want more info first, leave a comment below or get in touch with me on twitter.
  • If not, but you still want to help, there is a text message version of the trek as well! To try it out, go to the UEC and text ‘explorerp’ to 728674 (scvngr) and you’ll receive the challenges as texts.

I would greatly appreciate any feedback on the trek! Here are some things I’m wondering about:

  • Is it fun?
  • Did you learn anything about the UEC or nature?
  • Was it too hard/too easy?
  • Do the point values seem appropriate for the difficulty of the challenges?
  • Does the QR code scanning challenge work? (It didn’t in earlier testing but I’m pretty sure it’s fixed now)
  • Is there anything important missing from the trek?

Massive thanks to anyone who is willing to help me out with this!



I just saw Gamer Revolution, a documentary that highlights the disturbing fact that lots of people spend more time in fantasy gaming wolds than they do in the real world.

That’s why I’m so excited about mobile, location-based games like SCVNGR! It’s still a game, there are points and everything, but you have to get out of your house and explore your city to play it. With SCVNGR, you earn points by doing things in real life and engaging with the real world.

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