back to article Ordnance Survey recruits AR developer to build 'geolocated quests' to help get Brit couch potatoes exercising outdoors

UK mapping agency the Ordnance Survey has awarded a contract to develop an augmented-reality game it hopes will bring some 21st-century tech to the great British outdoors. Come rain or shine (OK, mainly rain), there's a niche of enthusiasts among the British population that likes nothing more than donning cagoules and sturdy …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Perhaps they could start by reducing the insanely high costs of their digital mapping? I'm sure that would help people to get outside. The US equivelent mapping is free since it was paid for through taxes in the first place, and they seem to spend more time in outdoor pursuits.

    You can probably tell I'm not in favour of them "inventing" Minecraft Earth so that people go outside to find things that aren't there. Why not promote the things that are there instead?

    1. AMBxx Silver badge

      I pay £25 per year for unlimited access to all OS maps on my phone and browser.

      Sounds pretty good to me.

      1. Oh Matron!

        What he said: I've yet to see a country that has such extensive mapping as the UK. I spend a fair bit of time in the Alps and have mountain maps from CH, FR and IT, and can, beyond doubt, say that the OS maps are beyond their peers. £25 a year I think is a bargain, especially given that, with a laser printer and waterproof paper, you can have your own custom map instead of a wet mush that you'd normally end up with in the lakes on an autumnal day like today.

      2. Lusty

        A phone and browser are utterly useless in outdoor pusuits. Check the pricing on a real outdoor GPS such as a Garmin and you'll see what OP presumably meant. currently £334 without updates and has limited areas at useful scales.

        1. IDoNotThinkSo

          It is the Garmin that is utterly useless, and always has been.

          In what way does it provide anything better than the right application* on a phone (with suitable battery backup and a decent map)?

          And yes, I have used one** in very poor conditions and -11C in the Cairngorms, and it worked fine.

          * I use LocusMap on Android

          **I also carry a paper map and a proper compass and know how to use them, but it is a hell of a lot easier to get a bearing from a phone when the spindrift is flying

          1. Lusty

            because the two AA batteries last for several days even in cold conditions and can be replaced or recharged easily in the field in the waterproof and ruggedised device with a sunlight readable screen?

            Contrast that to the phones we all have which last about 20 minutes outside if it's too cold or too bright, can't be easily seen in direct sunlight, and break with the slightest hint of a drop or something else in the bag with them. There's no comparison for the outdoors. iPhones also have a tendency to not switch on if they've been in the sun or the cold for more than a few minutes. That's not helpful for navigation!

            Regardless, there is no reason why the same digital mapping has such contrasting pricing between use cases. nor is there a justification for the extremely high price they are charging.

            1. AMBxx Silver badge

              I have a rugged phone (the Land Rover one, now about £240, but out of date). Second battery fixes to the back giving more than a day, plus a better GPS antenna. Big backup battery in the rucksack just in case.

              I used to carry my old Garmin too, but it just isn't in the same league as far as ease of navigation.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @"I pay £25 per year for unlimited access to all OS maps"

        Really from where? last time I looked at their public offering it was limited scale and a bitmap rather than vector data.

    2. andy gibson

      Maverick app for Android

      Free, and lets you download 1:25000 OS maps.

      1. JDPower Bronze badge

        Re: Maverick app for Android

        An app that hasn't been updated in nearly four years and has multiple reviews stating it's not functioning fully? I'll pass thanks.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Maverick app for Android

          I would presume that the 1:25k is the standard TIFF format offered by the OS and whilst it is likely to be out of date that isn't an issue for public footpaths beyond the lack of detail.

  2. Dave 126 Silver badge

    What AC said.

    To find footpaths you need the paid-for OS service. They have a free app, but it is based around pre-set walks and curated points of interest. If OS were actually serious about physical activity, they would make their data about footpaths easier to access.

    (I'm not talking about being in remote areas where my safety might depend on knowing where I am - in which case I would hsppily buy and carry a paper map and compass, in addition to my phone. I'm talking about more casual walks, where knowing of footpaths might let me explore an area)

    I don't know how much of their revenue is from selling maps to hikers, and how much is from selling GIS data to commercial organisations such as property developers.

    What's really fun is buying an xyz CSV point cloud file of the topology of your local area from the OS, derived from radar mapping. About £100 for a few square miles, depending upon resolution.

    EDIT: my info about the topographical data might be out if date, sine it turns out some changes were made in 2010... I'm just exploring some links provided here at the mo:

    1. This is not a drill

      Subscription £2.99 a month. Less than a coffee for the entire UK in "outdoor leisure" 1:25000 scale. Can use the maps on smartPhone and download the areas you are exploring for when you out of signal/battery saving, and you can view them in a browser on you Desktop/laptop for plotting your route in the evening.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        1:50k is typical resolution for road maps, if I was going off road and since they changed the trespass laws I would want enough detail to know that I am in the right when walking on someone elses land.

        My walking experience is that for years increasing numbers of old footpaths have been blocked in the hope of removing public access and without accurate data then you are leaving yourself open. If you go armed with 1:5k OS Landline and the old bill turn up you can say this is the government data saying I am right and the land owner is wrong, now excuse me I have walking to do.

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      I'm just exploring some links provided here at the mo:

      For historic maps they should have added although why the National Library of Scotland turns out to be the best place for historic maps of England remains to be explained.

      1. Zimmer

        "...why the National Library of Scotland turns out to be the best place for historic maps of England remains to be explained."

        They need to be ready to invade post Brexit?

        I'll get me coat... (no room for another icon..)

      2. Danny 2

        The National Library of Scotland is a superlatively rude-word amazing place. It's my local library geographically, albeit a hike and I don't get proper access with my Central Library library card from across the street without bluff and bravado.

        My dad was a Leith geographer by career, for his last big birthday I got him copies of maps of Easter Road through out it's history. A good memory for me, though he doesn't remember that and doesn't know where the maps went.

        You should blag your way in to the National Library when possible but i's difficult just now. From tomorrow at 6pm I can get fined £10,000 if I travel between my flat and my parents house - luckily I don't have £10,000!

        Covid regulations will make it illegal to enter or leave Scotland

        [ETA: At least this time I got 24 hours warning. Last weekend I was told I wasn't allowed to smack children with immediate effect. I never knew I was allowed to smack children! My parents numpty neighbours are having a drunken, boisterous Tier 4 lockdown party tonight, blasting '80s music which suggests hospital ICU next week.]

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        why the National Library of Scotland turns out to be the best place for historic maps of England

        I will try to explain:

        1. NLS applied for and got scot. gov money (don't know details, some grants) to "digitise" their collection and they didn't spend any of their own money

        2. BL (British Library) didn't apply and / or didn't get any gov money (I don't know details, there might have been some grants they failed to apply and / or win, but equally well there might have been no such money pot to win at all), and they didn't spend any of their own money.

        That said, there's another, _possibly_ related and fundamental difference: from my personal experience (at least 4 - 5 occasions), NLS employs competent people, whereas, from my experience (similar, several times), BL employees lie to you to make you go away, don't know a thing about their area of "expertise" when finally confronted and, in general, don't give a flying (...). BUT, I don't blame them, as the saying goes, you pay peanuts, you get monkeys. Apparently, the pay is so low, and working "culture" so toxic, that it wouldn't surprise me to be a true reflection of their whole "system".

    3. IDoNotThinkSo

      Note that Lidar point cloud data is available for free from the Environment Agency via OpenData

  3. Peter2 Silver badge

    "The western world has an activity crisis," a contract award notice said. "People are not being active outside half as much as they should be. Yet, increasing indicators suggest it's also not as much as they consciously want to





    The single most important action you can take is to stay at home in order to protect the NHS and save lives.

    You should only leave the house for very limited reasons. . . <snip>

    Also: hey, after constant 24/7 propaganda telling the public that they would drop dead if they stepped foot outside of their houses for months they aren't going out as much. I wonder why . . . . Maybe an app will help?

    1. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

      Yeah yeah, maybe. But even before the pandemic obesity and lack of regular exercise was being portended and scare-mongered as the next great human pandemic. I'm just not sure how an app is going to motivate those who choose to live a low exertion lifestyle to change their ways, if indeed there is really any requirement for them to do so.

      Then again, and to paraphrase a wise old sage "better to do than do not" and as an active triathlete I might even give this a look myself when it is released.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        the problem is Obesity is a symptom not a condition.

        To handle it requires inentifiying and rectifying what ever the underlying condition that lead to the problem in the first place.

        The current GP system (10 minute appointment, 1 problem only) does not allow for adequate discussion to identify, let alone cure the issue.

        in a lot of cases, due to workload its come down to this simple graph:

        Does patient have visible injury --Y--> send to hospital

        Does patinet have soft tissue injury --Y--> send to Physio

        Does Pt Smoke --Y--> Stop smoking

        Does Pt Drink --Y--> Stop Drinking

        Does Pt Have high BMI --Y--> Lose weight

        Pt is depressed prescribe AD

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "You should only leave the house for very limited reasons. . ."

      One of the specified "limited reasons" is to take exercise (unlimited amounts this time). A short drive is also permitted (this was unclear in the first lockdown). Hence why others are saying how nice it would be to know about footpaths in their local area.

      Half the country seemed to take up jogging during the first lockdown. I'm not surprised that it's less popular this time around, what with the seemingly endless rain, and shorter days.

    3. Cuddles

      If you read the article a little more closely, you may notice that the tender notice was published in January. As annoying as the pandemic might be right now, it is not responsible for 2/3 of adults in the UK being overweight, and nearly 1/3 being clinically obese. The problem is not that people aren't currently going outside as much as they used, it's that they were never going outside in the first place. Whether turning maps into a game will actually do anything to help that may be up for debate, but it certainly makes no sense at all to criticise an organisation for thinking beyond the current mess and working on a different problem that existed well before and will continue to exist well after.

      1. ThatOne Silver badge

        > Whether turning maps into a game will actually do anything to help that may be up for debate

        The portly adults are beyond help, but their kids can still be saved. While I agree its effect will most likely be limited, it's still worth a try.

    4. davenewman

      Just follow the advice from the German government YouTube videos.

      1. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

        Do they involve beer & sausages?

  4. AMBxx Silver badge

    Just go geocaching?

    Maybe they should just promote Save everyone a bunch of money.

  5. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    I wonder how many points of interest this would feature. The likely result, should it actually become popular, would be a relatively small number of hotspots attracting the users and overflowing any car parking.

  6. tiggity Silver badge

    Plenty of games to get you walking

    PoGO already mentioned, but there's Ingress, Jurassic World Alive, Zombies Run etc.

    I would sooner their products were cheaper than them spaffing millions on games.

    Even better, how about a free to use phone app for leisure use that shows decent quality map imagery with all the footpaths, compass / directions etc (instead of charged for versions) - they could still charge their excessive prices for other stuff. A free, high quality walking app would encourage people to use more UK footpaths as, without decent maps, its easy to get lost as a lot of UK landowners take "creative" approaches to obscuring where footpaths are, liberally have big "private" signs etc. ... Proof you are in the right is good. Remember some bolshy farmer with a shotgun telling me I was trespassing - I got out my trusty paper OS map & showed him I wasn't - but most people are not map carriers like me & will be deterred by lying scum, so free apps the way to go to get people exercising.

    1. andy gibson

      Re: Plenty of games to get you walking

      "how about a free to use phone app for leisure use that shows decent quality map imagery with all the footpaths"

      It already exists - Maverick for Android. Uses a variety of map sources, including OS 1:25000

    2. Fred Dibnah

      Re: Plenty of games to get you walking

      I also had a run in with a landowner (unarmed, fortunately). He said my map didn't count because it had been published two years earlier. Sometimes you just can't win.

  7. RowlyB

    Make Pokemon-Historical

    Sounds like a greate idea, but people who want to get outdoors usually do, most use cases for an OS map are in places where there is no mobile phone signal.

    A better idea would be to tie up with the Historical sites and ruins around the country and provide AR view of restored ruins, Imagine seeing a full height and fully restored Hadrians Wall through the power of AR, or seeing the Siege of Cliffords Tower in York or a fully restored Wroxeter or the Storming of Beeston Castle by the Parliamentarians...the list is endless.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Make Pokemon-Historical

      Oooh, +1 for that. I've love to "explore" old buildings that way. Especially if it was possible to put a simulated building of choice in an open field; explore ANY famous place from ANYWHERE.

      Being in the southeast US, it's a little hard to get a tour of the Pyramids, the Forbidden City, the Tower of London, etc. from here. But designate a soccer (football) field to see them? That would be sweet.

      1. Mike 16

        Re: Make Pokemon-Historical

        You could visit the Nashville Parthenon:

        Or maybe the Memphis Pyramid, although it may involve some sort of curse...

  8. disgruntled yank

    Thank you, Ordnance Survey

    Now instead of telling my wife that I'm off to have a couple of beers, I can tell her I'm on a geolocated quest.

    1. Colin Bull 1

      Re: Thank you, Ordnance Survey

      A someone above mentioned, geocaching is one solution. This was a follow up to a decades old pastime called Dartmoor Letterboxing. And there are/were several of these in pubs - The Plume of feathers at Princetown in particular. So a good excuse for a pub crawl

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    develop an augmented-reality game

    this is not going to end well. BUT, money will be spent... somebody, say purely hypothetically, a business set up 2 weeks ago, with friends in well-connected circles, will "win" a contract to code it... or am I describing how it's done in those corrupted, 5th world countries where people talk funny lingos?

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