Pokémon Go is the long-awaited augmented-reality iPhone and Android counterpart to the original Game Boy series. The game has swept through the United States, New Zealand and Australia, and is prompting a mania that has already pushed its usage levels close to that of Twitter’s, by some measures. It’s an augmented-reality smartphone app that has captured the minds and playful spirits of millions worldwide.
The objects are Japanese game characters, and the means by which they are seen is mobile phone screens in conjunction with geolocation technology. None of this is new: We have had augmented reality, geolocation and hit mobile games for several years. So, what is new in it? Millennial generation is getting old and Pokémon Go is their first mass-consumption nostalgia product.
A mania that has already pushed its usage levels close to that of Twitter’s
Concerns about the game have certainly crossed into the mainstream already. Because of the number of people who appear to be walking around distracted while playing the game, local law enforcement, health groups and city agencies have issued tips on how to safely play Pokémon Go. Other groups are raising questions about the privacy risks that could be caused by the game, all of which underscore just how early we still are on augmented reality.
Unlike other viral games, Pokémon Go has not kept players cooped up inside staring at their screens. Instead, it sends people out to streets, parks, beaches and beyond because the game uses augmented reality, a technology that fuses the digital world with the real world. To play Pokémon Go, users need to walk around their neighborhoods or towns with their smartphones looking for Pokémon characters to pop up on their screen and then capture those characters.
Pokémon Go’s popularity could mean a tipping point for augmented reality, particularly because the game is easy to download and play. It doesn’t involve fancy new headsets or other equipment, which virtual reality typically requires.