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Interactive gaming app aims to get kids to explore the outdoors with the help of technology

The platform will travel and can be used to create trails anywhere in the world

Like many parents, Lena Angland was keen for her children to spend less time on sedentary screen-based entertainment and more time playing outside in the fresh air. However, this tech savvy mum also recognised that technology could be her ally and used her background in software development to create Wanderly, a digital games company based around outdoor treasure and adventure trails.

“Software is built to be ‘sticky,’ which means that once you open the app or site you are lured into endless playing or scrolling and as a result children’s inactivity levels have reached an all-time high,” Angland says. “Wanderly uses technology to make outdoor walks ‘sticky’ by creating a digital experience that will entice families to explore and spend more time in nature. For us, technology is the enabler, not the focus.”

The trails are linked to interactive digital treasure hunts and as the children find the “clues” they learn about the history, wildlife or heritage of an area. Augmented reality (AR) brings the walks to life and the families meet and interact with 3D animations of characters and creatures along the trails.

The games are activated via an app that the parent controls. The app displays a series of cards with symbols (a paw print for example) and the children have to find marker posts with the same symbols hidden along the trail.

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Wanderly is an early-stage start-up so for now the Innishannon-based company has concentrated on developing trails in west Cork and Kerry

Pointing the phone at the symbol will bring up a character such as a bird or animal and information about them on screen. An interactive photo can be taken with the character and when all the symbols on a trail have been found, it unlocks a quiz. From a child’s perspective the process is similar to what they are used to from gaming and the “education piece” sits quietly in the background.

“With three children I was always on the lookout for family-friendly outdoor activities and I saw how the promise of a fairy walk or a treasure hunt would bring us to a particular location. Having something to ‘do’ also incentivised my gang to complete a loop without too many ‘are we there yets,’” Angland says.

Wanderly is an early-stage start-up so for now the Innishannon-based company has concentrated on developing trails in west Cork and Kerry. There are six up and running including one in Killarney National Park. The ultimate aim is to develop trails nationwide.

“From a commercial perspective, Wanderly has the potential to increase footfalls to historic and local heritage sites so it will be of interest to public bodies but also to hotels and private attractions as they could offer a trail as an added attraction. For example, our festive experience is part of the Christmas in Killarney festival,” Angland says adding that while there are other providers of AR experiences, very few are aimed at the family market. Secondly, because they typically cost six figures to build and install, most small- and medium-sized venues couldn’t afford them.

“Cost is one of our USPs and this influenced our pricing model,” Angland says. “We have built our platform in a way that keeps the initial cost low, but the product can be customised as much as someone wants depending on their budget.

“Unlike other gamifying walks, our experience is not completely virtual. We have incorporated physical markers because we believe it’s important for children to get involved in looking for things in the environment rather than relying 100 per cent on the technology. This treasure hunt aspect of our trails is part of the magic.”

Angland estimates investment to date as a huge amount of time and around €80,000 in hard cash with support from LEO Cork North. The platform will travel and can be used to create trails anywhere in the world. The business, which is already income generating, employs four people part-time.