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Pixie Hunt: Cameraphone Scavenger Hunt

Pixie Hunt: Cameraphone Scavenger Hunt

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A couple of years ago, some friends of mine invited me along on their scavenger hunt.  We buzzed around town in teams collecting photos of ourselves performing various fun and bizarre acts (e.g., "take a photo of your team making a human pyramid with a stranger", "take a photo of your team with the Fremont Troll") and generally making a ruckus.  We had a ball and occasionally crossed paths with the other teams, but I kept thinking that it would be fun to be able to see what pictures the other teams were taking and banter back and forth during the game.

And so Pixie Hunt was born. Pixie Hunt is a mash up prototype a few of us here at Microsoft put together that creates a mobile, connected scavenger hunt game.  Here's how it works:

You load the application on your Windows Mobile 5.0 smartphone or PocketPC cameraphone, sign up for an account on Flickr and a group text messaging service, then wait for instructions.  Your phone will download a set of tasks like the examples above and you're off.  Each time you take a photo against a task, it's automatically uploaded to Flickr and tagged. Then all the other team’s phones download it and show it in the game. 

The effect is, you get to see all the photos the other teams are taking as they take them, plus you can "smack talk" with the other teams with the integrated group SMS service.  The application takes care of basic housekeeping, like keeping score for you and organizing the pictures based on which task they were taken against.

Because this is a mobile application, we realized we could also integrate location awareness into the game: all photos are geotagged with the latitude and longitude of where they were taken. That enabled us to add the ability to see the other teams on a Virtual Earth map and to support "location riddle" tasks (i.e., you won't get points for certain tasks unless you figure out the right place to take the photo).

We tried the game out on ourselves (I won't embarrass anyone on my team by telling you the Flickr group we used), and it was a kick.  Now, I'm tickled to report that Cingular Wireless has agreed to co-sponsor an evening of play with us at O'Reilly's upcoming Where 2.0 conference

Now, before you go blogging that Microsoft or Cingular are getting into the mobile game business or something, let me remind you this is just a prototype.  If all goes well, I'm hoping to make the game available as a free download from this or a related web site (we built it as a mash up of existing services so it would be easy for other people to use). And if a few folks download it and have themselves a good time, then Marcus, Raj and I will consider it a job well done.

- Jordan Schwartz