If anyone has ever been to the western provinces of Canada, such as Alberta or Saskatchewan, and hung out in any rural farming community, chances are you have either heard of, seen, or even meandered through a country-folk corn maze. I myself, hailing from central Alberta in Canada, live about five minutes from a corn maze, and attempt to find my way through it at least once a summer.
For those of you who don’t understand the concept of a corn maze, it is really simple. Farmers designate a certain field to be used for tourist entertainment, plot out a complex and intricate maze on GPS, and use said GPS system to plant their corn as walls in a giant labyrinth. Using fertilizer, irrigation, and lots of love, the farmers grow their corn seven to eight feet high, and then invite people to pay to get lost inside of it. I pay every year, and every year, I get lost. I love it.
Typically, the maze in my area has a theme each season. Some years it has been hockey-themed, with the maze carved in an image of the Edmonton Oilers hockey logo. Some years it has been music-themed, with the maze image that of a country and western musician holding a guitar. Were you to fly overtop of the field in a small aircraft, you would see this image clear as day cut out of the corn. Each path, twist, and turn in the labyrinth is a line in the drawing of the bigger image. It really is amazing when you think of it.
As well, for the sake of directionally-challenged people like me, there are ‘maps’ and ‘guideposts’ to assist you in finding your way to the exits. If you are lucky enough to even reach one of the numbered guideposts, you can use the ‘map’ for clues on which direction to turn next. Usually the map displays the number of the guidepost with a riddle. The answer to the riddle will tell you whether or not to turn left or right. Luckily, answer keys are also provided on the maps. Questions in the past have included facts about corn, nursery rhymes, Guinness Book of World Records facts, and much more. This year was much, much different, and so fascinating that I felt the need to write an article about it.
This year, our local corn maze decided to ‘get with the times’ and integrate technology into its visitor experience. Using QR codes, which are computer-generated scanning images, such as a bar code, one can use the scan app on their Android or iPhone to access the clues for escaping the maze. Each guidepost features a large QR code. Scan that code with your phone, and a website with the next clue pops up. If you answer the question, you will be rewarded by being told to turn left or right. My niece thought this was amazing, and ventured through the entire maze with my phone as her guide.
To make it even more spectacular, the entire maze itself was a giant QR code. Instead of a hockey-themed image of a sports logo, or a man sitting on a stool, the field was cut into the shape of a huge QR code. I went to take a picture of the field design, which was featured on a poster just outside the maze, and didn’t realize my niece had left the scan app turned on. Instead of taking a photograph, my iPhone scanned the image of the field – and the corn maze’s website appeared! I was gobsmacked to realise that the field itself was a working computer image, and if I were to fly over the field in an airplane and scan it from above with my phone, it would work as a true QR code and a website link would appear.
It is fascinating what technology is doing for our world in this day and age – even down to a country-folk corn maze!