I personally have spent every weekend this summer since the U.S. Olympic swim trials here in Omaha manning Quikbyke's prototype rental Qiosk: Saturday, Sunday, 10-to-2. And pretty much every weekend we'll rent our solar-charged Prodecotech Stride 300 electric-assist bicycles to folks, the majority, it seems, out-of-towners. Saturday was just such an example. The Kaisers (pictured above) are from North Carolina and in town for a wedding, I believe.
Before setting out, they wanted suggestions where to go and what to see. Fortunately, I have a huge map of Omaha's downtown mounted on the doors to the container. I suggested they ride over to the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge spanning the Missouri River between Iowa and Nebraska, affectionately known to the folks at the Omaha Convention and Visitor's Bureau just as 'Bob.'
After Bob, I suggested the 'Spirit of the Nebraska Wilderness' park with its monumental sculptures of pioneers on mule and ox-drawn wagons. From there, they might ride over to the Old Market and then through the Conagra Foods corporate campus. Other renters have ventured south of Lauritzen Gardens and west to St. Cecilia's Cathedral: all fabulously interesting locations with amazing stories to tell if only there were someone there to help tell them.
I imagine the situation's the same in cities large and small. Sure, there are your standard tour guides: Michelin, Lonely Planet, etc.; and there are tons of online tour apps and websites. Useful, but largely boring.
What if there were a way, instead, to turn boring into "brilliant," as the Brits say? What if we "gamified" the typical tour experience, turning it into a entertaining, mind-teasing, heart-pumping experience.
What if we turned Quikbyke's into "time machines"?
Okay, I realize that a 36V, 300 Watt motor and 10.4 amp hour battery isn't going to do the job. I mean, Dr. Brown's time-traveling Delorean needed 1.21 gigawatts. But the human imagination is a mighty powerful thing. Combine our eBikes, a smart phone and the human capacity to imagine, and we come pretty darn close to being able to time travel.
Now, I've been mulling over this idea much of the summer: how to create an App that somehow 'gamifies' the rental experience, but it took the suggestion of three young ladies from Las Vegas last weekend who were in town to plan a May wedding to catalyze the idea. After riding Quikbykes for two hours, they returned with three suggestions: replace the pedals on the bikes with less abrasive ones, install water bottle holders, and offer a tour app.
Pedals and water bottle holders are fairly easy to accommodate. Creating a smartphone App, well, that's several magnitudes more challenging and expensive, especially since we'd like to offer tours specific, someday, to scores or even hundreds of different locations. Whatever we created needed to have a generic framework, yet be easily adaptable to each location, while being current and compelling.
That's when I recalled the locked room phenomenon. Venues are springing up all over the country where small teams of people, often Millennials, are locked in a room and have to figure out how to get out based on the clues left in the room. There's usually a one-hour time limit. People love the challenge.
Why not do the same thing in an App. Instead of your average tour guide, we give people a "locked room" challenge to solve, only they do it out-of-doors, on eBikes. Think of it also like a treasure hunt or geocaching, only instead of finding things, you solve location-specific puzzles and riddles, scoring points in the process.
This weekend, Shark Tank replayed a Spring episode that included Trobo, the storytelling robot. Actually it's a little plush toy with a Bluetooth speaker inside, but it was intriguing enough for "Shark" Robert Herjavec to invest $166,000 for a 33% stake in the company. It wasn't the plush toy that excited him, but the entrepreneur's reliance of crowd-sourcing the STEM stories they tell through the little toy.
That got me to thinking, if we created a generic framework - a game - through which to tell compelling stories about people, places and events, past and present, we could turn boring into brilliant.
I now have outlined that framework and created a few mock-ups, even written our first challenge in the form of a riddle that goes something like this:
High above the street I soar,
My rippling waves, a hero’s banner;
And at my feet your legions roar
as I drape this legacy of a Jewish tanner.
What am I?
Solve the riddle, which is specific to both a place and time, and you score points and get directions to the next challenge: the further you ride and the harder the questions, the more points you can earn. But as in the case of the locked room puzzle, there is a time limit. Fail to score sufficient points in time and you lose what points you've earned, or at least that's the current scoring model I am working on.
The key here, like Trobo, is great content: creative, challenging, insightful, fun. The founders of Trobo asked people through their website for ideas. The best ones got turned into stories Trobo tells. I want to do something similar. Get smart, creative people to come up with the "stories" of people, places, and events set in the distant past to the present. The best ideas, we'll commission them to flesh out. As compensation, we might offer cash, rental discounts, reward points good towards the purchase of Quikbyke merchandise, or the opportunity to appear in the game as one of our mysterious 'timekeepers.'
Sound intriguing? Would you be interested in helping create the world's first electric bicycle rental 'game'? Drop me a line at TIMEKEEPER(at)QUIKBYKE(dot)COM
Oh yeah… and the answer to the riddle?
Posted By: Bill Moore [04-Sep-2016]
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