Science fiction writers have for many years predicted the rise of the robots; a time when the machines that we have designed and built will develop higher “thought” processes and decide that on balance they are better off without us pesky humans. Even with this undercurrent of doom and gloom surrounding our metal friends, playing with robots is fun with a capital f. But you may well be thinking what has this got to do with geocaching. Enter the Geocaching Robotic Arm (GC41V9Q).
The electronic metal limb in question is located at the home of drsolly, who you may recall is currently the UK’s most prolific cacher with over 38,000 finds. In order to log this cache you must first take control of the arm over the internet and force it to do your bidding. With the help of three web cams you can see where the arm is and using the on screen controls can position it wherever you want. The goal is to manipulate the cyber appendage to extract a bison tube from a mug whereupon a secret code will be revealed to you. Then, with a bit of web research you can find out the next piece of the puzzle you need and, bingo, the final coordinates can be discovered.
I so wanted to play with the robot, but to avoid damage and possible injury to anyone within a 5 metre radius of it I delegated the job of retrieving the bison to people with sight. With Sam at the controls and Shar providing guidance, the robot was instructed bit by bit to move towards the bison. After about 5 minutes and when we were nearing our goal, we were surprised to see a human hand enter the picture holding a note of encouragement that read “nearly there”. This made me laugh, to think that drsolly was actually there and watching as we were controlling his robot. After a not insignificant amount of trial and error and a small amount of bickering about how to control it, the bison was finally brought into the view of the web cam and the secret was revealed to us. We made a note of the info and then set about trying to get the thing back in the mug for the next person to have a go. This proved a lot harder than extracting it and after around 20 minutes we had to admit defeat and hit the reset button to return the arm to the starting position. This was fine except for the fact that it was still clutching the bison with the secret word visible to the camera. It was, unfortunately bed time for our chief robot controller so I contacted drsolly and apologised for leaving the clue visible and was relieved to receive a prompt reply saying that it was no problem and that he had simply plucked the bison from the grip of the arm and plopped it back using his extremely versatile and flexible human arm.
I have since managed to discover the final coordinates using the code word and hopefully soon we will be able to make the short journey into Buckinghamshire to sign the log unless I can develop an automated log signing device… oh wait I have one of those… Sharlene.