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The New Virtual Caches: A Vision Of The Future?

J-Dog, Big J, J-Rish doing his best Steve Jobs impersonation.

There has been a lot of talk about the reintroduction of virtuals in a new format since Jeremy Irish (from this point to known as J-Dog, Big J or simply J-Rish) made his now infamous comments on the geocaching.com forums:

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 Geocaching.com, 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.

From this I think there are two important bits of information to note. The first takes into account the first three points from J-Dog above: it will still be on gc.com, they won’t go toward your find count and it will be a visible statistic. To me this all says that they will look and operate (as a listing) just like the rest of the caches, but they will be separate.

The same but separate should please both camps (the lovers and the haters). Especially if there is an opt-out button that lets haters remove them from their stat bar etc. And for the lovers a stat bar that says:

Geocaches Found: 748

Virtuals Found: 32

Will automatically tell them they have 780 cache finds. This gives time for the new virtual to establish and, if it’s successful, I wouldn’t be surprised if the totals were merged at some point in the future. Give he haters some time to get used to it again, then wack it in when they stop complaining. Good strategy.

The second bit of information is more interesting. J-Rish expects the majority of participants will be using smartphones. Now I’m sure a business of the size of Groundspeak has the stats on the number of smartphone cachers out there and I bet they don’t make up the majority. My pick with this comment is that the new virtuals system will be smartphone based and involve a new app or a serious modification/upgrade to existing Groundspeak caching apps.

“But o’wise and handsome Cumbyrocks, why?” I hear you ask.

Because the way to capture all the fun of virtuals but move them into the future, at the same time creating something that opens a gateway for new users and utlising new(ish) technology, would be to make the logging of virtuals something you could only do if you happen to standing in the right location.

This would be a little like Wherigo, in that with Wherigo you have to be in the actual location before you get the information you need. For the new virtuals you would have to be in the actual location so your GPS could verify it and allow you to log the cache. Somewhat similar to how Munzee’s work but without having the annoying QR codes to snap.

“But I don’t have a smartphone! How could I log a new virtual cache?” I hear you cry.

Putting aside my desire to send you links to the Blackberry and CacheSense websites I would suspect traditional GPS users would be able to log with ALR’s (Additional Logging Requirements), the old submit a photo or answer a question trick.

If, by absolute chance, I happen to be close to being right then this would be a very smart move for Groundspeak. Not only does it provide an attractive and easy pathway for new users to enter the caching arena (and more cachers in the arena means more cash flowing baby) but it also provides app designers and, possibly, GPS makers with a new development.

Who knows? Perhaps one day in the not too distant future we will be seeing a new Magellan Explorist that can play ‘Groundspeak Virtuals’?

*Any thoughts on what the new virtuals might be like? Share ’em in the comments below.

5 comments

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  1. ErikaJean

    Whatever and how ever thy turn up – I hope they don’t end up being as stupid as Souvenirs… I never liked that concept and still don’t!

    Any I DO hope there is some way for us non smartphoners to do it! 😉

  2. Joan

    I think there will have to be an option for situations in which folks are not using smartphones, or when they are in a location where the cell signal is nonexistent or the carrier does not provide coverage. Otherwise it will have a rather limited ‘availability’.

  3. rhr_nl

    I was also thinking the new virtual would be some kind of wherigo like thing which gives you a logging code based on your location. I asked Bryan but he denied the link between virtual and wherigo in a chat session. But I think if you replace wherigo with smartphone, you get pretty close. I also noticed the move from gpsr to smartphone already in the big website layout upgrade and the munzee approach of geocaching. Now you are linking the new virtual with smartphones and I think you are pretty close to what groundspeak will come up with. Good post!

  4. Harry

    I hope smartphones are not REQUIRED to do these. In this economy, there are many people who are tech-savvy but still don’t have smartphones, even when the phones are cheap or free there’s often monthly data charges that are hard for people who are struggling, unemployed, etc. (and there’s a LOT of that these days) to meet.

    It would be nice if they’d count in the find count too.

  5. Ray M

    Oh, I get it now. After much resistance from customers, groundspeak backed off jamming the new virtuals down our throats all at once. Seems like we were choking and just might go spend our money elsewhere.
    So the new strategy is to EASE it down our throats so we don’t choke and then combine the virtual numbers with the regular cache numbers when we are not looking.
    Wonderful strategy ! Just makes me want to trust groundspeak so much and makes me feel so valued as a customer !

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