Words by Shannen Van Dinther. Image via

Augmented reality has recently reached a mass audience. How it probably was every ‘90s kid’s dream, becoming a Pokémon trainer just turned into a reality for a lot of those kids – or basically for everyone with access to a smartphone. People are now roaming streets, parks and beaches with their smartphones in order to try capture the most exotic Pokémon. This all happened due to a recently released game called Pokémon Go – based on the creatures known for the successful animated Pokémon series. Niantic, an American software developer company, released an iOS and Android app that allows you to locate, capture, battle and train Pokémon. Players are encouraged to explore cities and visit public landmarks in order to locate animated creatures and gyms.

In the first few weeks after its release, this free game has already broken records and reached the top of the download charts. With over 100 million downloads, Pokémon Go brings augmented reality to a big audience. The app has a GPS-tracking element that allows you to catch different Pokémon depending or where you are in the world. Especially design for Pokémon GO, you have terrain types coming into play so Pokémon will vary accordingly based on this data. Even climates around the world play a part. On top of that, any player can walk out of his house and have a Pokémon displayed in his camera-view. Some very interesting technology, you could say.

 

“Within the years, AR-applicable devices have become cheaper, faster and smaller. When the Google Glass hit the market, augmented reality equipment became increasingly affordable for the masses. And now, with the release of Pokémon Go, the popularity of AR has gone through the roof.”

 

Let’s dig deeper on the augmented reality aspect of Pokémon Go. With augmented reality (AR), the physical world is enhanced with elements of the digital world. So, for Pokémon Go, 3D animations are taking part in our historical world through the screen of smart devices When augmented reality first arose, most examples were non-interactive and did not rely on special user equipment. Within the years, AR-applicable devices have become cheaper, faster and smaller. When the Google Glass hit the market, augmented reality equipment became increasingly affordable for the masses. And now, with the release of Pokémon Go, the popularity of AR has gone through the roof.

Alongside the rising of augmented reality comes virtual reality (VR). Think of the VR headset Oculus Rift, for example. Even though AR and VR seem alike, they are not quite. Where augmented reality embellishes experiences by adding interactive virtual components within the real world, virtual reality creates its own reality with components of the real world within a digital environment. VR is usually delivered through a head-mounted controller. This connects people with the virtual reality and allows them to navigate through the digital world. A virtual reality is often designed in such a way that it is difficult to distinguish it from the real world. With augmented reality, on the other hand, users should be able to tell the difference.

Despite the differences, both AR and VR intent to accomplish the same experience for the user. As for the entertainment industry, what in the past seemed like science fiction imagination, new artificial worlds have come to life. But also in the scientific and medical world, augmented and virtual reality are continuing to be quite revolutionary. Think of remote surgeries and the treatment of psychological conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The renovating technologies of augmented reality and virtual reality also create intriguing business opportunities. Niantic, for example, has been given great moneymaking possibilities by cutting deals with restaurants to become sponsored locations. Another good thing about the augmented game is that users no longer play from their couch, but are actually moving around.

Pokémon has been one of the most successful television series across the world and recently celebrated their twentieth anniversary. Besides the success of the animated series – with up to 800 episodes – Pokémon was popular on other distinctive markets: 260 million video games and 21.5 billion Pokémon cards were sold across 74 different countries. With the release of Pokémon Go, the transmedia storytelling seems about complete.

As said, players of Pokémon Go are encouraged to explore the public sphere, looking for new Pokémon to capture. Groups of people hit the streets, causing unforeseen side effects such as disturbing homeowners and road accidents. Police in Australia even published tips how to play the game safely, which outlines the app’s position in contemporary society. Augmented reality has never reached such popularity before, and it seems to be more accessible than ever. Perhaps it the reason why both the creative technologies and the already famous character of Pokémon have reached record heights.

Sources: I, II, III.