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Wedding gift can't open until taken to secret GPS location

October 22, 2009 |  7:23 am

Wedding
There’s only one spot on Earth to open this wedding gift.

It comes in a small, carved wooden box — equipped with a GPS circuit — that won’t unlatch until it’s taken to a pre-set mystery location.

And the recipient has to figure out where that is.

It sounds like something from “Mission: Impossible” or a James Bond movie, but this is a real gift made by software engineer Mikal Hart for a friend who was getting married and moving to France.

And it has to rank as one of the most mysterious, geekiest and most delightful wedding presents of the year.

“I’ve always been fascinated with puzzle solving, and I thought something fun could be done with GPS,” said Hart, 46, who works for computer-chip maker Intel Corp. in Austin, Texas.

He bought the box, festooned with a carved elephant, at a World Market store. A little digital screen, push button and GPS chip were mounted on the lid. Inside went the rest of the electronics and a little motor for the latch.

Weddingdistance The box was delivered with no instructions. When the button is pushed, a message comes on the screen giving a distance in kilometers. It also shows the number of button pushes — the maximum allowed is 50.

Hart hopes that his friend, who received the box last month, will figure out that the distance on the screen is a GPS-derived calculation of how far he is from the target spot in France. With three clear readings, he could triangulate to find the goal.

Here’s hoping he’s not reading this — it’s the Ile-de-Brehat, a small island off the coast of France where the couple met. Upon arrival, the motor will automatically turn on to free the latch.

“What would be better than to get in a boat and go to the island to open the box,” Hart said.

The gifts inside had to be small to fit — they’re mostly gift cards. But if it’s the thought that counts, this gift is priceless.

“It took me nine months, off and on, to figure it out and build it,” Hart said.

As people discover his site, he’s getting requests for boxes.

“I was set up to make only one,” he said, “but people are asking.”

-- David Colker

Top photo: Wedding puzzle box, equipped with small display screen in middle, push button and GPS chip. Bottom photo: When button is pushed, screen shows distance from goal. Credit: Mikal Hart

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