A local startup is using its augmented reality app to invite users to a digital scavenger hunt with very real prizes – including money virtually “hidden” around downtown San Diego.
On March 4, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., the “Hidden Cash San Diego” scavenger hunt will take place around points of interest across downtown. The event is the brainchild of Dmitry Shapiro, founder of the San Diego startup, GoMeta, Inc., and creator of the augmented reality app, Metaverse.
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The app, much like Pokemon Go, is built to allow users to interact with its augmented reality universe. Users can create games and other “experiences,” drop them onto a map of the real world and, using their smartphone as a guide, physically walk up to those experiences and interact with them.
Since the company was founded in September 2016, it has hosted a few hype-inducing stunts around Southern California, including scavenger hunts in San Diego and Los Angeles in late October 2016.
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The March 4 hunt, Shapiro said, is another one of those big events, meant to get people to play his company’s app while exploring San Diego for a chance to win money and freebies from local businesses. He said, so far, about 1,500 people have RSVP’d for the event.
“Participants will go on a quest, as we call it, via the app,” explained Shapiro. “They get a map and walk to get closer to clues, and the augmented reality interacts with them. They will encounter 10 to 15 experiences and the last one [will lead to] a prize.”
Shapiro said one of these “experiences” could entail a user coming across some sort of character as they point their smartphone at a spot along the scavenger hunt. That character, via a speech bubble, may ask the user a trivia question. The answer may unlock another clue, leading the user to another experience along the scavenger hunt, or to a prize, such as cash.
The cash – which could be between $20 and $1,000 – is not physically hidden anywhere, but will appear in the game, on the player’s smartphone screen. Shapiro said the winner will be paid digitally, via tools like Paypal or Venmo
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Unlike the viral “Hidden Cash” craze of 2014, Shapiro and his colleague, Jonathan Miller, said this scavenger hunt is all virtual, meaning there is no physical digging for prizes.
“Don’t bring your shovels,” said Shapiro. “There’s nothing to dig; you have to find the cash [via augmented reality].”
For the upcoming scavenger hunt, Miller said Metaverse has also partnered with San Diego businesses to offer other prizes along the way, including freebies at local restaurants such as a side of bacon at The Omelette Factory or a free taco at Cilantro’s Taco Shop.
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Other giveaways up for grabs in the Metaverse include: free yoga classes at Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga or Full Circle Yoga, an introductory to cooking class at San Diego Culinary Institute, or a free small coffee at Lush Coffee & Tea.
Leading up to the big scavenger hunt, Miller and Shapiro said locals have already started winning cash across San Diego in places like UC San Diego, Westfield UTC, Little Italy and Lake Murray in La Mesa. The company’s Twitter account, @HiddenMoneySD, has been posting happy selfies of winners.
“We see lots of smiles,” said Shapiro. “People have a lot of fun playing and winning.”
Miller said these giveaways will be ongoing, with bigger scavenger hunts happening once in a while as “fun experiments.”
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To participate in the March 4 event, iPhone or Android users must download the Metaverse app and create an account. From there, they will be able to navigate a map on their smartphone and then get out and walk around San Diego in search of clues.
In November 2016, the startup landed $2 million in seed money from several big names including former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, former Myspace CEO Michael Jones, Greylock Partners and Moonshot Capital.