BSA introduces Virtual Reality Scouting

VR-Scouting-deviceApril 2 Update: See an important message about VR Scouting at the end of the post.

Love Scouting but hate getting out in the fresh air?

You’re in luck! Today the Boy Scouts of America introduces Virtual Reality Scouting, a revolutionary alternative to regular Scouting that lets you experience all that the BSA has to offer without ever leaving the house.

The new program, debuting this fall, already has a catchy slogan: “Bring the Great Outdoors to the Great Indoors.”

To experience VR Scouting, families will want to purchase the Complete Home-Based Virtual Reality Scouting Starter System — or, simply, the CHBVRSSS (pronounced just like it’s spelled). It’ll go on sale this fall.

The CHBVRSSS will retail for only $1,999.95 — a bargain when you consider it’ll pay for itself after just six years of staying home while everyone else in your unit experiences outdoor Scouting adventures.

David Wilson, a Scouter from Michigan who got to test VR Scouting last month, said he’ll buy a device as soon as it goes on sale.

“I love going camping with my Scouts, but I’m not a fan of fresh air, warm mountain breezes or being outside in general,” he says. “So VR Scouting is perfect for me.”

I bet it’ll be perfect for you, too. Just imagine:

Instead of waking up to morning dew outside your tent, you can sip a Mountain Dew as you watch the sunrise on bright high-def screens placed inches from your eyeballs.

And haven’t you always said the best part about Dutch oven cooking is the incredible smell? Why go through the hassle of preparing food, eating it and cleaning up when you can slip on your CHBVRSSS and, through patent-pending Aromatic-II technology, experience a smell that’ll make your mouth water?

Add-on smell packs (coming January 2015) will take your nose’s taste buds to new heights. At just $4.95 each, you can enjoy all of Scouting’s signature scents: Springtime Blooms, Friday Night Campfire, Fresh Mountain Morning, Peach Cobbler and Post-Trip Laundry. (Warning: That last one’s only for those looking for a truly authentic Scouting experience.)

The bottom line is this: Instead of overwhelming all five of your senses by going outside, sink into your favorite recliner and let the CHBVRSSS stimulate just three of the five.

Oh, the places you’ll “go”

Where will VR Scouting take you? That’s up to you to decide. Your CHBVRSSS (the name gets catchier every time I hear it) ships with a number of pre-installed destinations, including:

  • Generic state park, eastern U.S.
  • Generic state park, western U.S.
  • “National Park”
  • Beach (exact beach to be determined)
  • Top of mountain (exact mountain to be determined)

You’ll also want to consider purchasing the High-Adventure Add-On Pack ($39.95).

This pack re-creates the once-in-a-lifetime experiences in store for Scouts, Scouters and Venturers who visit the BSA’s iconic national high-adventure bases. Save your vacation days (and start saving your money) because the CHBVRSSS gives you a high-adventure experience in a fraction of the time and for roughly three times the cost of actually going.

This pack includes:

  • Philmont: Move your head to the left and right as you get a 130-degree view from the top of Mount Phillips — all in air-conditioned comfort.
  • Florida Sea Base: Breathe easy as you experience the wonders of scuba diving and snorkeling while staying completely dry. I’m told they’re even trying to add animated fish by 2016. (Warning: Do not use CHBVRSSS near actual water.)
  • Northern Tier: Float the gorgeous lakes of Minnesota and Canada without lifting a finger. Or use the optional the VR gloves ($399.95) to paddle along and see your canoe move with each stroke.
  • Summit Bechtel Reserve: Feel the wind in your hair as you speed down the Summit’s awesome zip-lines. (Note: fan attachment coming summer 2015.)

Advancement and merit badge work

The activities Scouts enjoy during VR Scouting can’t be counted toward advancement, merit badges or existing Scouting awards.

But don’t fret! Only Scouts with the CHBVRSSS can earn a brand new award: the 500-Hour VR Scouting Award. Because it’s always watching you, even when you turn it off, the CHBVRSSS knows exactly when you’re using it or not using it.

Once you reach 500 hours of VR Scouting, do nothing. The device will automatically contact the BSA to submit your award application.

Eight to 10 weeks later, you’ll get your patch — and a sheet listing the names and phone numbers of optometrists in your area.

Built-in safety features

Speaking of, safety is a top concern of any Scouting activity, even VR Scouting.

And Richard Bourlon, the BSA’s health and safety team leader, is pleased the new VR Scouting device has built-in safety controls.

“When kayaking down rapids, for example, the CHBVRSSS won’t let you go over that waterfall no matter how hard you try,” he says.

It also will shut off every 45 minutes “to prevent eyestrain,” Bourlon says, “and you can’t turn it back on for at least 15 minutes.”

In other words, you’ll want to keep your iPad or Kindle nearby to make that mandatory rest period a little more bearable.

But if your family owns multiple CHBVRSSSs, parents shouldn’t try borrowing their son or daughter’s machine.

“CHBVRSSS also has built-in parental controls,” Bourlon says. “That makes sure mom or dad can’t use their kids’ device.”

The CHBVRSSS launches this fall

Though the BSA is announcing the CHBVRSSS today (April 1, 2014), you won’t be able to buy your Complete Home-Based Virtual Reality Scouting Starter System until this fall. Start putting away money now!


April Fools!

April 2 Update: As many of you guessed, this was my April Fools joke for the year. Thanks to everyone who played along yesterday and allowed me to have a little fun.

Truth is, no machine could ever truly replicate the magic of being outdoors, visiting a high-adventure base or experiencing Scouting with friends. Virtual reality? Not for me; I’m more than happy with actual reality.


  1. UK Scouts have developed a similar virtual reality product today as well

    Scout Headquarters at Gillwell Park have announced that they have launched an interactive 3d holographic version of BP walking around the grounds, using groundbreaking holographic projector’s. Made by Australian company Dropbear, these projections will allow visitors to be taken on a tour of the park and facilities… It is said to appear so real that it’s hard to believe that it is not the man himself.

  2. My son got to test it at Jamboree and LOVED it! Are there plans to add on the downpour module or the lightning alerts anytime soon?

  3. This could drastically increase scouting numbers and help with scout retention. It looks like they’ve aligned it with the Guide to Safe Scouting and the Guide to Advancement. How about Youth Protection? You know, two-deep leadership and no one-on-one contact? I may have to get this so I don’t have to get the new JetBoil BioBoil that was just introduced today. Here’s a link from Section Hikers Backpacking site; That product looks like it’ll help reduce human waste in the backcountry but could be a little messy.

  4. Is this an April Fools joke?!?!? There is absolutely NOTHING that the great outdoors could be substituted with. Especially a pair of goggles with a video screen!!

  5. I love it! I need six! Now I can take all the boys with me! Will there be a “Webelo Weekend” add on as well for the aspiring VR Scouters among us?

    Thanks Brian for the full guffaw this morning! Happy April Fools Day!

  6. I don’t know about this. I thought as volunteer leaders,
    we were trying to encourage the”Outing” in Sc”outing”. I can see this helping those with a barrier to being in the outdoors, but is this where we really want to be going?

  7. I see a couple of problems: One, the cost is extremely high, and two, this is just another piece of technology to encourage young people to be even more self-absorbed and devoid of social skills than they are now. If a Scout wants to see and smell the outdoors, why not go on a campout? It would be a lot cheaper, and he’d make friends. Parents complain that Scouting is too expensive now, and with the middle class disappearing, who is going to be able to afford this thing? Aren’t we supposed to be teaching Scouts how to use their money wisely through Personal Management merit badge? Oops! I forgot. The BSA is teaching that lesson with BSA credit cards!. The CHBVRSS is a ridiculous idea.

  8. Happy April Fool’s Day to you too Bryan!
    You really had me going until I read the comments…*laughing
    Thought is was GREAT it was SO expensive ($1,999.95) as maybe it’ll let us keep the OUTING in ScOUTING. NOTHING beats the REAL thing… go camping or get out in the outdoors/ nature!!

  9. Even funnier that it popped up on Twitter. I know some that will actually look this up for ordering…thanks for the on-point giggle this AM.

  10. When will they be adding the virtual rocks in the center of the back for the true camping experience, Happy April 1 Bryan.

  11. About the Smell Packs… Post-trip Laundry is OK, but I think “Thursday Night at Summer Camp (late July version)” might be even more memorable.

  12. Most of the commenters have made the connection between the post and the date. I know that I couldn’t afford such an expensive piece of equipment without selling a truck load of popcorn.

  13. I can’t wait for the winter camping patch to be released. You could sit in front of the freezer and be able to enjoy earning the virtual 100 below patch too! Until I can get my scouts to get up and make the hot chocolate for me so I can stay in my warm sleeping bag, this will certainly be the next best thing! 😉

  14. Absolutely BRILLIANT! An idea whose time has come! And maybe the best part is that Mom and Dad won’t have to worry about their Scouts messing up their uniforms by wearing them outdoors instead of only to courts of honor. Kudos, Bryan!

  15. When I first read this I thought it was about the dumbest thing I ever heard. I then looked at the calendar and, well, you got me. The trouble is, considering how advanced our cyber world is becoming, It’s not so far fetched. What’s next? Instant replay in Major League baseball?

  16. Only $1,999.95? What a bargain! We want a CHBVRSSS for each person in our family. Maybe we can start up a new troop, one for CHBVRSSS Scouts. (This was a good one, but I think the one on knife-blade length limits was better.)

  17. I’ll hold out for the Lunar and Mars Rover packages, as long as part of the Mars Rover packages includes the site where that congresswoman from Houston thought Neil Armstrong planted the flag after his landing on the moon.

    To enhance the product, perhaps you can include the fantasy module, where people rather than the sun are responsible for global warming.

  18. Thanks, Bryan, but I’m waiting for ver. 2.0, which will feature smell-o-vision, so I can enjoy the campfire without the hassle of gathering and cutting firewood!

  19. Rediculous.

    Unless it is being used to allow a disabled individual the opportunity that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

    Regards, Chris Porcu Sent from my iPad


  20. I was expecting some good posts this year. We did place an order for dehydrated water packs for our next hike. As the instructions say, “just add water.”

    • A LOT, Fred. Of the 495 postings hitting my email boxes today, 300 or so of them were commenting about this blog entry, saying things like “the BSA are sellouts!” or “I can’t believe they’re went in that direction!” or my favorite “for an organization which is supposed to be about the outdoors…” and then insert your favorite line about the BSA being anti- whatever.

      One guy told me that he’s turning in his membership card. “This is too much…first the change in the membership standards and NOW THIS?” I gave this one a personal reply and reminded him of today’s date and its significance… and he wrote me back saying “this was the BEST FOOLS TRICK EVER!!” and confirmed that he was not going to “count the BSA out of doing anything fun again!”

      People just have to be reminded of the day, Fred, that’s all…

  21. I shared this with a LOT of my friends …. 99% of whom forgot what day this is and who was sending it …. the responses were as good as this article !!!! Must. Stop. Laughing.

  22. GREAT April fools joke. I can’t believe some of the comments with people getting bent out of shape that believed it! MUAHAHAHA!!

  23. Great April Fools joke. It’s too bad that some people think this is where Scouting is headed anyway. True, after the last push to remove the outdoors from Scouting back in the 70’s the pendulum has apparently swung back towards the “outdoor method”, etc., but this post has more truth in it than I’m really comfortable with.

  24. Irving, Texas
    April 1, 2014

    In a follow-up to the announcement this morning in Bryan’s Scouting magazine blog concerning Virtual Reality Scouting, the BSA provided additional details on the new program during an early morning news conference held at the National Scouting Museum.

    The new program is the BSA’s latest effort to respond to a decline in youth membership during each of the past fifteen years.

    The program, developed by an extremely secret BSA Sub-Committee appointed
    by the Chief Scout Executive, is geared toward recruiting “Virtual Scouts.” The program is loosely based on a “Ghost Scout” membership model previously in effect in Dallas, Birmingham, Atlanta and several other cities.

    Under this new program, Scouting units will be encouraged to recruit “Virtual Scouts” and send them to “Virtual Summer Camps” and “Virtual High Adventure Bases” while still paying “non-virtual fees” to the sponsoring councils and National bases.

    When questioned by a reporter attending the announcement meeting, the BSA’s spokesman stated, “As long as units adhere to the recent IRS ruling that Bitcoins must be viewed and taxed as property, fees may also be paid by using Bitcoins.” To assist with this, the BSA will open a Bitcoin exchange at the National Headquarters in Irving. Scouting units will be able to participate in the new exchange by paying a modest percentage of total unit revenue to the National Council. The percentage is yet to be determined but will probably be in the 5%-10% range.

    A highly anticipated feature of the new program is the ability of a typical “Virtual Scout” to attain the Eagle Rank within two years of joining by sitting at a computer and completing “Virtual Merit Badges” and “Virtual Positions of Responsibility” needed to attain the Eagle Rank. Details are still being worked out as to how “Virtual Scouts” will be able to complete “Virtual Eagle Scout Service Projects” but this shouldn’t
    prove to be a major challenge as the BSA’s Information Technology group is
    working on a solution.

    According to the BSA’s spokesman, “By introducing our new Virtual Scouting Program, the Boy Scouts of America is proud to fully move into the 21st Century.” The spokesman continued, “We also expect to significantly increase the number of Eagle Scouts as ‘Virtual Scouts’ will be able to earn the Eagle Rank without ever actually going camping or otherwise leaving their homes.”

    Finally, the BSA is soliciting input from Scouters throughout the USA to send in stories of the virtual (a.k.a. imaginary) friendships they made while reaching maturity. According to the spokesman, “Doing this will enable our organization to be extremely creative in designing and implementing our newest program.”

    • Thank you Calvin – anything worth doing is worth OVER-doing.

      In this case, virtual is its own reward.

  25. Reblogged this on BSA Troop 45 and commented:
    I understand that preorders are only being taken through the end of 4/1/14 (looks like a one day only sale). Hopefully we can also preorder the high adventure pack.

    I’m also told that in 2015, these units will be required for some merit badges. We need to get working on popcorn sales, immediately!

    I’m really looking forward to the VR module for Citizenship in the Nation – can you imagine, sitting virtually in the House of Representatives as they discuss and vote on legislation? We need one of these for every scout.

  26. *laughter* We’ve had a LOT of fun talking about this; and I’ve had a LOT MORE FUN reading the 322 email postings sent to my email boxes so far today (last year was a lot more but I couldn’t read them until the 3rd of April…technical problems from the server end). I guess the day kinda snuck up on them…

    Yeah….I’m sure that tomorrow morning, Bryan will have a “correction” to his blog entry today…but I have to agree that this was good. I have a filter for “reoccurring topics” like this sent to my email and I changed it from last year’s “plug” to the following:

    “Thanks for letting me know your opinion and/or thoughts on this matter. The BSA continues to move ahead on a digital front to insure that we are providing what kids — Scouts — really like. However, I ask you to please find a calendar and look at today’s date. Then please say aloud “GOTCHA!” and enjoy a warm beverage while re-reading the entire article. If you want to play along, please do; if you think this is in poor taste, please direct your comment to

    Thanks again for posting me and Happy April Fools Day! Settummanque!”

  27. Bryan,

    I had contacted you last year regarding the Narragansett Council Merit Badge College. I would like to sublet a story to you. YOu suggested it would make a good subject for your newsletter. Please advise on how to do this? Suggested length, pictures? video?

    Joseph DelPonte Chairman, Narragansett Council Merit Badge College Committee The College of Merit Badge Knowledge

  28. The Silico Valley Scout
    Decided that he would shout out:
    “Watch me go Wii!
    “On my Toten Chip tree!
    “And I won’t even dull my hatchout!”

    == with appologies to Ogden Nash ==

  29. I find myself torn by this idea. I think for the GENERAL boy population this really isnt what scOUTING is about. But then I think of all those youngsters who are fighting diseases like cancer, are physically unable to get outside, or have other medical conditions that keep them from being able to get out, not because they dont WANT to but because they are unable. For those boys and young men this is a great tool! For most I find this wrong on many levels. I think if they could implement this for those who have needs for it it would be great and if it can be incorporated into a local troop so these boys can still relate with others his age in his own area it would be great and it may open the eyes of the boys bringing them more awareness to of those with any kind of special need

  30. A scout on his iphone would tweet,
    “my vcmpfr sneet
    i ck my #browns
    & @ cmpree sit down
    & hk on my virtual 2 feet!”

  31. This was coming up on two years ago, gang. A LOT has progressed forward in reality since then, which now makes the “ha ha hee hee” more of a “um, it’s possible…wow…cool” thing.

    The BSA will NEVER get out of the “outdoors business”, that is one thing you can take to the bank! We are the premiere outdoor education, recreation and sustainability youth serving organization in the United States. None of our many competitors can ever get close enough to smell the various “smell packs”. Nobody else can “do SCOUTING like we do”, even with the various imperfections and errors encased in the human being.

    At the same time, thanks to technology and creativity, the ability of providing a cheap or next to cheap set of VR goggles has come down to a point that one can go to an issue of _Popular_Science_ and build your OWN set of goggles using cardboard, cheap magnifying glass lenses and a couple of other hardware store/Lowes/Home Depot things for under $3.00.

    That’s three dollars. Not thirty, three hundred or even three thousand.

    It all started with the release of the latest Star Wars movie and it’s promotion back last summer. A smartphone was engineered with downloadable VR software; it would be attached to a cardboard goggle box which is attached to your eyes (that $3 item) and volla!!! You are looking around on the surface of the Moon; or looking out from the Sears Tower in 360 degrees; or looking across, down and around Grand Canyon.

    The boxes, pre-assembled and just waiting for you to attach your phone to them, were provided free — first come first served, from a popular wireless service helping to promote the movie. Some kid reverse-engineered the “box” and published the directions and it was no longer necessary to stop by and be subjected to a sales pitch…you could make it in your own bedroom, kitchen, craft room or detention hall…

    So, while the “smell packs” may be a bit down the road, the Scouting VR goggles can be MADE by a Scout and used for any number of various Boy Scouting or Venturing activities.

    It WILL NEVER replace the great outdoors, which can be seen in wonderful 4D and allows all of your body’s senses to enjoy. It CAN, however, be a Godsend to those many Scouts who cannot travel to Philmont or the Summit for one reason or another; cannot run some rapids in Northern Tier’s or SCUBA dive in the Florida Keys; and because of the BSA’s policies, cannot parachute or paraglide from the air.

    Yes, two years and a GREAT April Fools’ joke may now have some real life practicality to it.
    You never know with OUR great program!!

Join the conversation