Game Mechanics of a Scavenger Hunt

android512x512This year we organized a scavenger hunt for Kscope15 in collaboration with the ODTUG board and YCC.

As we found out, scavenger hunts are a great way to get people to see your content, create buzz and have fun along the way.  We also used the scavenger hunt as a platform to try some of the latest technologies. The purpose was to have conference attendees complete tasks using Internet of Things (IoT), Twitter hashtags and pictures and compete for a prize.

Here is a short technical overview of the technologies we used.

Registration

We opted to use a Node.js back-end and a React front-end to do a clever Twitter name autocomplete. As you typed your Twitter handle, the first and last name fields were completed for you. Once you filled all your information the form submitted to a REST endpoint based on Oracle APEX. This piece was built by Mark Vilrokx (@mvilrokx) and we were all very happy with the results.

registration

Smart Badge

We researched two possible technologies: Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) Beacons and Near Field Communication (NFC) stickers and settled for NFC. The reason behind choosing NFC was the natural tendency we have to touch something (NFC scanner) and get something in return (notifications + points). When we tested with BLE beacons the “check-in” experience was more transparent but not as obvious when trying to complete a task.

We added a NFC sticker to all scavenger hunt participants’ badges so they could get points by scanning their badge in our Smart Scanners.  To provision each NFC badge we build an Android app that took the tag id and associated with the user profile.

Circus_NFC

Smart Scanner

The Smart Scanner was a great way to showcase IoT. We used the beloved Raspberry Pis to host an NFC reader. We used the awesome blink(1) USB LED light to indicate whether the scan was successful or not. We also added a Mini USB Wi-Fi dongle and a high capacity battery to assure complete freedom from wires.

Raymond Xie (@YuhuaXie) did a great job using Java 8 to read the NFC stickers and send the information to our REST server. The key part for these scanners was creating a failover system in case of internet disconnection. In such case we would still read the NFC tag and register it, then it would post it to our server as soon as connectivity was restored.

IMG_1625

Twitter and SMS Bots

Another key component was to create a twitter and SMS bot. Once again, Mark used Node.js to consume the Twitter stream. We looked for tweets mentioning #kscope15 and #taskhashtag. Then we posted to our REST server which made sure that points were given to the right person for the right task. Again we were pleasantly surprised by the flexibility and power of Node.js. Similarly we deployed a Twilio SMS server that listened for SMS subscriptions and sent SMS notifications.

Leaderboards

We just didn’t settled by creating a web client to keep track of points. We created a web mobile client (React), an iOS app and an Android app. This was part of our research to see how people used each platform. As a bonus we created Apple Watch and Android Wear companion apps. One of the challenges we had was to create a similar experience across platforms.

leaderboards

Administration

We needed a way to manage all task and player administration. Since we used APEX  and PLSQL to create our REST interface, it was a no brainer to use APEX for our admin front-end. The added bonus was that APEX has user authentication and sessions management, so all we had to do is create admin users with different roles.

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Conclusion

Creating a scavenger hunt for tech conference is no easy task. You have to take into consideration many factors, from what are the right task for the conference attendees to having the optimal wifi connection. Having an easy registration and provisioning process are also paramount for easy uptake.

We really had fun using the latest technologies and we feel we successfully showcased what good UX can do for you across different devices and platforms. Stay tuned to see if we end up doing another similar activity. You wont want to miss it!

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