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Technology Trends: Augmenting Reality With Pikachu & Pidgey
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Technology Trends: Augmenting Reality With Pikachu & Pidgey - Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Augmenting Reality With Pikachu & Pidgey

Executive Leadership Articles

Technology Trends: Augmenting Reality With Pikachu & Pidgey

If you are on a digital detox this week, you may be missing the unrelenting photos on social media, but if you’re out in the real world, you’re certainly seeing it in action, even if you don’t realize what’s going on. Post office parking lots are crammed with cars while only one or two people stand in line inside. Previously unnoticed water fountains in long-unvisited parks are the objects of intense focus by throngs of (mostly young) people staring at cell phones. Cars crammed to capacity stop in front of darkened churches late at night, pause for a few moments, and then drive on, to be replaced in minutes by other cars doing the same thing, all night.

The sudden interest in places of worship and publicly displayed art isn’t some kind of cultural revival, but the latest mobile app craze: Pokémon Go. Released to much anticipation in the United States last Thursday, Pokémon Go is already installed on 5% of all Android phones, surpassing Tinder’s total number of installations across its five-year run, and it’s only days more before it surpasses Twitter’s number of daily active users. It’s at the top of the iTunes apps chart and dominates online conversation, in the usual niches of tech punditry as well as mainstream channels such as Forbes and the Washington Post. The initial success has driven Nintendo’s stock skyward, adding more than $7 billion to the company’s value in less than a week, so the world is clearly paying attention.

Pokémon Go is an augmented reality game in which players move around in the real world while attempting to capture Pokémon creatures displayed on their phones, superimposed on real-world streets, under bridges, and up in trees. Unlike virtual reality, which replaces the real world with a completely artificial world, augmented reality overlays the existing world with enhancements such as additional information, imagined architecture, or special elements visible only to those using it. One early attempt to augment reality in the social media realm was a mobile app accessing users’ smartphone cameras, so when they pointed it at a nearby restaurant, the smartphone identified the location and displayed its Yelp ratings. In classrooms, projected displays contain cues recognized by smartphone apps, giving students more information about wherever they point their phone cameras. And in the gaming world, they create parallel realities using GPS and mapping software, offering possibilities for real-world gameplay.

Before Thursday, the most successful of these games was Ingress, whose cult-like adherents traversed the landscape, claiming “portals” for their teams, linking portals across vast spaces to create “fields” of territory shaded with their teams’ colors. For years, the Ingress crowd has been the subject of an occasional mainstream news story, more as the study of a nerdy subculture than any kind of reporting of the widespread craze that Pokémon Go has become.

As with any new fad, the media has been quick to share warnings, cautions, and stories of trouble including attempted robberies specifically targeting Pokémon Go players. Pokémon Go was created by Niantec, a spinoff of Google, and since Niantec first developed Ingress, the geolocation and mapping mechanisms were already in place. However, Niantec also used its existing worldwide Ingress “portal” locations, most of which were submitted by its players, as “Pokestops” and “gymnasiums” for Pokémon Go. In the world of Ingress, portals are found at sites of artistic interest, such as statues and murals, or cultural significance, such as churches, graveyards, hospitals, government buildings, police stations, and parks. You can see how, with thousands of people playing Pokémon Go in many cities, this could be a problem for security, safety, and general peace and quiet. As some police stations have publicly warned, one of the last things a safety-conscious citizen wants is to be lurking at night behind a police station in order to catch a Staryu. And when a sculpture in a tiny garden outside a hospital emergency room becomes a gathering place for Pokémon-obsessed people at all hours of the day, it becomes an issue of personal safety and public safety as well.

Mobile app crazes come and go, sometimes with equal acceleration in each direction, so there’s no predicting whether or not Pokémon Go has any staying power. However, there’s something about the Pokémon franchise that resonates with a large swath of the tech-savvy population. Each new release for the home gaming consoles is met with eager, unbridled, rabid consumerism, and although the games are marketed for younger players, Millennials in their late twenties have jumped into Pokémon Go with remarkable fervor. That post office parking lot is full of twenty-somethings more than anyone else, and they are the needle-movers in the digital economy. If the game can keep their notoriously short attention spans locked in for a reasonable duration, this is probably the start of something enormous.


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Technology Trends: Augmenting Reality With Pikachu & Pidgey - Executive Leadership Articles

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