Tuesday, July 20, 2010

SCVNGR - GoSmithsonian Trek

A match made in heaven; SCVNGR and the Smithsonian Institution

If you know anything about either of us, it should not surprise you that the perfect marriage between a scavenger hunting smartphone app and the Smithsonian would get us pretty excited. So excited that we spent 4 hours scurrying through 9 museums this past Saturday just to finish the entire puzzle.

The app is free and available for the iPhone and Android systems. Working with your smartphone's GPS, the appropriately named SCVNGR facilitates scavenger hunts based on your location. Users are asked to answer trivia and take pictures to complete challenges that range in difficulty. Almost all of the questions can be solved by reading the right sign or going to the correct exhibit. Still, there are a couple that required a little bit of problem solving.

Clearly the point of the game isn't to fry your brain - though with this weather your brain might spontaneously combust on its own. Instead, users are exposed to a reasonably comprehensive highlights tour of the Smithsonian. For tourists on a first time trip to DC or residents like us, using SCVNGR is a unique and fun way to explore the treasures of the National Mall. It wound through exhibits both familiar and foreign, and seldom did we leave without a new nugget of information that we'll share with future visitors. Really, the only thing missing - besides vowels - was more time to enjoy it all.

J Says

I'll admit that B was much more excited about this latest GoSmithsonian effort than I was. I didn't know much about it, so I just downloaded the app and followed him to the Mall. By the time we completed the first challenge (at the Smithsonian Castle) I was totally hooked. My competitive drive kicked in and I was dragging B through all of the museums at warp speed trying to solve the puzzles. It was hot and crowded and I was wearing the wrong shoes, but I was still excited to be playing the game and before I knew it, it was 7:30pm and we were getting ushered out of the American History Museum at closing time.

One of the cool parts of SCVNGR was that it took us to places we've never been such as the National Museum of African Art, which was especially timely considering our recent trip to South Africa. I think the game is a great way to see the Smithsonian through fresh eyes and could keep even the most jaded Washingtonian interested.

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