The highly anticipated game Pokemon Go, announced in 2015, is finally available for iOS and Android in several countries, and soon it will be so for the whole world.
This is not just another game – it is evolution. A cutting-edge technology allows the mixture of the real world and augmented reality, with impressive results. The concept upon which the game was developed by Niantic Labs, an American software development company, is simple but effective. Through the mobile screen, a map very similar to Google Maps shows the closest Pokemon, which can be found and captured by pointing the camera at a visible light source near the animal.
The app uses geolocalisation to transform streets and points of interest such as museums and stations in sets for fantasy adventures, through what is called a superimposed camera view. The relationship with Google Maps is no coincidence: the CEO and Founder of Niantic is Jon Hanke, a former Google employee who has worked on developing Google Maps, Google Earth and Street View, sensing the potential of this technology and its gamification.
From Joke To Reality
In 2014, on April Fools Day, Google announced that its users could catch Pokemons through the app. A year later, the Silicon Valley giant decided to implement the project, turning to Niantic.
Thus, starting from the database of places and points of interest used with Ingress, another video game with augmented reality developed by Niantic, Pokemon Go was created, a game able to merge the exploration of known places with the fun of the game.
Then, why all this attention to Pokemon Go from the world of technology? Because when the digital element overlaps with the physical environment, it turns into augmented and not virtual reality – an amazing new perspective of convergence between the online and offline worlds.
The challenge for developers when it comes to augmented reality is more difficult, because if in the virtual reality players are consciously immersed in a world that does not belong to them and in which they can’t stay too long. With augmented reality, the necessity of a smooth interaction between virtual elements and real ones arises, and their overlapping should appear almost natural.
Overlap is the key word here: creating digital layers to be added to the reality to increase its potential.
The New Technologies
Does Snapchat mean anything to you? It’s the same kind of technology, algorithms analyse the environment around and apply filters.
Of course, this technology is still in its beginning and certainly one might still see Pokemon floating in the air mismatched or confused to the walls and Snapchat filters that do not fit together perfectly on human faces, but the potential for this type of technology is endless.
The London-based designer Keiichi Matsuda tried to put in a short film how this world could be filled with the augmented reality, perhaps drawing a futuristic scenario which is not too far away.
Whether it is augmented or virtual reality, there is still a need for technological support that allows people to view and interact with the digital component: besides the mobile screen, in fact, wearables, such as the Google Glasses, become complementary elements for the virtual experience.
In the case of Pokemon Go, Niantic Labs scheduled to launch the Pokemon Go Plus, a Bluetooth-connected bracelet which signals the user the presence of a Pokemon without the need to constantly look at the screen.
The technology behind the new Niantic game will have to show the applicability of its solutions also for the market, but certainly the way the startup is connecting and integrating the world of video games with real life, joining a growing trend of gamification, deserves a lot of attention, even from those who do not know what a Poke-ball is.
The Battle Of Realities
Augmented versus virtual reality – a clash of titans or two new technologies that are slowly but surely entering people’s lives. Definitely, the one most publicised is virtual reality, thanks to investments such as the $2bn one from Facebook for the purchase of Oculus Rift, but the truth is that augmented reality could spread more rapidly and extensively.
The future? Probably two parallel roads with very different purposes for these two types of technologies.
Integrated Gamification Is The Key
The promises of virtual reality are enticing and visionary but are detached sharply from the everyday lives of people.
Instead, this is the point where augmented reality seems to be more consistent with the characteristics of today’s consumers. In a world where information travels at the speed of light and everything has to be ready-to-use, being fitted with devices that integrate this data in the environment around us halving the search time is bound to be successful.
The characteristic that makes these devices more attractive? Gamification – being able to make activities of everyday life less boring and repetitive. The result is a more playful and interactive reality, full of stimuli and information but still down-to-earth.