Pokemon GO has swept the globe in recent weeks, leading otherwise sane adults to injure themselves, ignore safety precautions in their surroundings, and shirk grown up responsibilities in favor of chasing and capturing a bunch of virtual monsters on their smart phones.
What’s the secret formula behind Nintendo and Pokemon Inc.’s insanely successful mobile app? More importantly, what can this addictive game tell us about the future of computing?
By now you know the goal is to catch ‘em all, but what’s more interesting about the Pokemon GO phenomenon is how the game utilizes augmented reality. By using your phone’s GPS to place you inside the game, Pokemon GO blends the real world with an augmented one full of cute little creatures to capture.
This is the first time augmented reality (AR) has found success on such a large scale, and it signals the huge surge we’ll soon see in AR technology. Unlike virtual reality, which transports users to an entirely fictional world, AR seeks to blend elements of the real world with a virtual one, creating a dreamlike landscape.
With startups like Magic Leap already bringing in huge rounds of funding for technology they haven’t even revealed yet, it’s clear that the future of tech resides in these mixed media spaces. Instead of passively consuming information, as we mostly do today on the internet, AR allows us to have compelling immersive experiences. Pokemon GO is bringing people together in a way that video games and smartphones rarely, if ever, do.
So how can we account for the runaway success of augmented over virtual reality technology? For one thing, AR doesn’t require expensive equipment or additional technology, as VR does with its headsets. We have all the technology we need for AR with a GPS-enabled smartphone. The overnight success of Pokemon GO will inspire a whole new crop of VR apps. Beyond games, we can expect to see this technology take off in the health, entertainment, and even political spheres. Essentially, all the ways in which we use our smartphones on a daily basis are ripe for a VR makeover.
Perhaps it’s fitting that a cult favorite game from the nineties has resurfaced to lead the way into the AR future. After all, augmented reality tech has been around since the late 1960s, when the first head-mounted augmented reality system was created by Ivan Sutherland to show computer generated images. By the early 90s, the Air Force was using AR to allow the military to remotely control machinery. By 1998, the 1st & Ten technology changed the way we view football. From there, AR made its way more fully into the entertainment industry in a variety of media forms.
From Pokemon GO to Magic Leap, we can safely assume that augmented reality is not only here to stay, but that it will continue to revolutionize the way we interact with the world around us. Here’s to witnessing the dawn of an immersive future!