The basic premise? Charities pitch ideas, teams form around them and make those ideas become real in a weekend. Simple. If you haven’t heard of it before, I encourage you to check it out, it’s an extremely rewarding and worthy cause - and contrary to the fact it’s run by Geeklist, it’s not just geeks that can help - anyone can.
LTL (Learning Through Landscapes) specialise in getting kids more active, reducing screen-time, and encouraging learning outdoors. I think we all remember how we hated being stuck inside a classroom on sunny days. But something else also attracted me to this charity was the ability to help SEN (Special Education Needs) children interact with their world in a whole new way.
So, back to the brief. LTL were pretty vague about what they wanted, partly because they weren’t sure about what could be achieved in a weekend’s worth of work, and partly because they wanted to leave it open to fresh ideas. They definitely wanted something to change the way kids use technology - to somehow get them interacting with the world instead of hiding away from it, possibly using augmented reality.
Augmented reality got my attention. It’s certainly a very interesting concept - a merging of the virtual and the physical. It would definitely help kids get more involved in the world - extending it with the limits of their imagination. The first idea was formed.
A game in the real world, where they could interact with and find items, level up by walking around and interacting with items, find hidden secrets and treasures. All through their phone camera and screen. Ambitious. Very ambitious. Too ambitious for a weekend. Back to the drawing board.
The core concept still remained - kids had to interact with their world. But how? How did I like to interact with my world when I was young? What was a fun way for me to get out there, be active, and have fun?
The second idea formed. With a normal treasure hunt, you need to hide the clues with a lot of setup, reset for each kid playing (or have multiple treasure hunts), or confirm manually whether the kid has solved the clue and found what they need. This is the 21st century, and we all carry around devices with camera and powerful processors which can process images in our pockets. Let’s use them!
The idea is simple - you load up a treasure hunt in the app, you get a clue. You tap the clue, it brings up the camera, and asks you to point at what you think the clue is referring to. If the camera sees it, you have solved the clue, and can now progress to the next one.
Given changes in the subject material of the treasure hunts, this is an idea that could be suitable for children of any age. It also could be used as a tool for SEN children as a bridge between worlds - one common trait among various disorders, including autism, is the love of collecting things.
The day of the hackathon arrived, I pitched the idea, a team formed, and we were away.
I will spare you the gruesome details of the sleep deprived, caffeine fuelled weekend, but here’s the result:
A working treasure hunt application.
- Ability to take pictures of clues, and create treasure hunts with a web interface
- Download those treasure hunts on the main application - just select a clue, point the camera at it when you find it, and a polaroid develops
- View a fact file about the clue once you’ve found it
We didn’t get everything in there that we wanted, but we’re all extremely proud of it, and the charity are very excited:
“It’s fantastic. This could be ground breaking. A solution that finally bridges the divide between our children’s increasing demand for tech and getting children outside and active. Hack for Good and Alliants turned something that was a bit of a pipe-dream for us into reality. We can’t wait to see it in action”
We’ll be looking to continue improving this app in the coming weeks, and to get kids out there and solving clues. That’s one of the best things about an event like this, not only does it challenge you physically, creatively, and mentally, but it provides a springboard for future work. We developed a great product given the time constraints, and now those constraints are lifted we can take our app as far as we want.
Following the success of the weekend Alliants will be hosting more of these events, news of which will be posted on this blog, and I can’t wait to be challenged and sleep deprived all over again.