Poké­mon Go for peo­ple who couldn’t care less

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE - By Shelly Palmer

Aug­mented Re­al­ity (AR) is not new, but thanks to Poké­mon Go it is newly rel­e­vant. The game has bro­ken ev­ery record for adop­tion, users, and time spent, and it has given Nin­tendo a much-needed boost in both buzz and mar­ket cap – oh, and it’s su­per-fun to play. Even if you never down­load the game or even look at a screen­shot, here are a few things about Poké­mon Go’s epic launch that may move you from “I couldn’t care less” to “Hmm … that’s in­ter­est­ing.”

You won’t get in trou­ble for call­ing Poké­mon Go “AR,” but be pre­pared for some push­back from tech-savvy drink­ing bud­dies. Poké­mon Go is as much like AR as Face­book 360 videos are like VR (vir­tual re­al­ity). At best it is pseudo-AR, but this dis­tinc­tion will mat­ter only when you ask your de­vel­op­ers to build “Fill-in-your-brand-name-here Go” and you find out how Poké­mon Go ac­tu­ally works. Un­like Magic Leap or Google’s Tango or Mi­crosoft’s HoloLens, the char­ac­ters in Poké­mon Go do not re­act to their en­vi­ron­ments or have a sense of space. This is be­cause it uses your smart­phone’s lo­ca­tion fea­tures to de­ter­mine where you are, and then sim­ply su­per­im­poses an­i­mated char­ac­ters over the im­age from your rear­fac­ing cam­era.

Poké­mon Go has more in com­mon with lo­ca­tion-based apps than it does with the true AR ex­pe­ri­ences that are just over the horizon. That said, this is a pre­cur­sor to fullfea­tured AR, and it has brought the prom­ise of the tech­nol­ogy to ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion.

AR su­per­im­poses com­puter-gen­er­ated im­ages (text, graph­ics, other im­ages, etc.) over your field of vi­sion to “aug­ment” your ex­pe­ri­ence. So far, the most com­mon ways to ex­pe­ri­ence AR are by us­ing smart­phones or by wear­ing pur­pose-built gog­gles or glasses that mimic a heads-up dis­play. Be­cause it com­bines your ac­tual lo­ca­tion with data and im­ages that en­hance your ex­pe­ri­ence, AR has thou­sands of prac­ti­cal uses. VR im­merses you in a sim­u­lated or vir­tual en­vi­ron­ment. It is ex­cel­lent for game play, vo­ca­tional train­ing and several other kinds of entertainment.

At present, the tech­nol­ogy re­quires the user to wear a head­set and head­phones that iso­late the user from the out­side world. Most VR ex­pe­ri­ences re­quire the user to be seated in a safe space or to wear a safety har­ness on a 360 tread­mill or to be in the equiv­a­lent of a padded room.

Some peo­ple be­lieve that this lim­i­ta­tion will pre­vent VR from go­ing main­stream. I think it’s too early for that kind of declar­a­tive state­ment be­cause pure VR ex­pe­ri­ences are mag­i­cal and will ul­ti­mately pro­vide hu­man ex­pe­ri­ences that are like be­ing in the “Ma­trix.”

MR (mixed re­al­ity) is a term that Magic Leap and oth­ers have been us­ing to de­scribe a tech­nol­ogy that mixes VR with the real world. If Magic Leap or HoloLens or Tango did Poké­mon Go, gamers would lose their minds! The char­ac­ters would have a sense of space, re­act to their en­vi­ron­ments, hide be­hind things, and much more. MR al­lows pho­to­re­al­is­tic en­hance­ments that will al­ter your per­cep­tions in sig­nif­i­cant, vis­ceral ways. You might see an an­cient ruin as a thriv­ing city or see a room with dif­fer­ent fur­ni­ture in it or with dif­fer­ent coloured walls and draperies – the cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ties for MR are in­fi­nite. Im­por­tantly, MR is not here yet. It re­quires sen­sors that can map your en­vi­ron­ment, pow­er­ful lo­cal pro­cess­ing, co­pi­ous amounts of wire­less band­width, fu­ri­ously fast com­pu­ta­tion in the cloud and prac­ti­cally in­stant ac­cess to vast amounts of data.

One of the most im­por­tant things about Poké­mon Go is its back­story. The game was not pur­pose built; it was a mod­i­fi­ca­tion and re-skin­ning of Ingress, an ex­ist­ing datadriven mas­sive mul­ti­player game. Niantic, the com­pany that built Poké­mon Go, was founded by John Hanke, who also founded Key­hole (the start-up that Google ac­quired to ac­cel­er­ate the cre­ation of Google Earth). The data­base of Pokés­tops and Gym co­or­di­nates was sub­stan­tially taken from a data­base cre­ated by Ingress gamers.

Poké­mon Go could not ex­ist with­out this ex­ten­sive, first-party map data. So, if you’re think­ing of knock­ing off the game, think again. Un­less Niantic is will­ing to sell or grant ac­cess to its data­base of land­marks, your ver­sion of “Fill-in-your-brand-name­here Go” is go­ing to be al­most im­pos­si­ble to cre­ate.

Poké­mon Go is a good start. It has ev­ery­one talk­ing about AR, which im­me­di­ately leads to a dis­cus­sion about VR, which ul­ti­mately con­cludes with a re­newed sense of pur­pose to achieve MR. While you might not be able to cre­ate “Fill-in-your­brand-name-here Go,” you can start think­ing about great uses of AR from your sup­ply chain all the way through to your con­sumer touch­points (prod­ucts, mar­ket­ing, ad­ver­tis­ing, branded entertainment, cus­tomer ser­vice, etc.).

Ev­ery­one has a the­ory about why Poké­mon Go has been so suc­cess­ful, so quickly. There is no one rea­son. But con­sider these el­e­ments be­fore mak­ing your de­ci­sion to jump into AR: (1) Niantic had over five years of ex­pe­ri­ence with Ingress, a game that is al­most iden­ti­cal to Poké­mon Go. (2) There was a mas­sive first-party data­base that en­abled the user ex­pe­ri­ence. (3) They leveraged Poké­mon, one of the most pop­u­lar game brands in the world. (4) Ev­ery­one in the tar­get mar­ket has and knows how to use a net­work-con­nected smart­phone ca­pa­ble of pro­vid­ing an emo­tion­ally sat­is­fy­ing user ex­pe­ri­ence.

I could go on list­ing el­e­ments of this “per­fect storm,” but there is no need. The over­ar­ch­ing rea­son that Poké­mon Go is on your radar is that it is su­per-fun to play.

Which raises the ques­tion, is the pop­u­lar­ity of Poké­mon Go re­ally about AR, or is it just a decade of pent-up Poké­mon de­mand among mil­len­ni­als un­leashed by wire­less net­works and a great app? Your guess is as good as mine.

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