As my husband and I sat on our front porch sipping a red wine, we saw our neighbor—the father of our babysitters, husband to our daughter’s violin teacher, an awkwardly tall, extremely likable guy—meandering down our dead-end street with his arm extended holding up his smartphone.
“Our son introduced us to this game,” he said. “It is Pokémon; using your camera, they pop out, and you have to get them.” Like rats following the Pied Piper, my girls quickly ran over to see what the fuss was about and then walked up and down the street with him for the next 15 minutes.
At the time, it did not occur to me that I was experiencing the beginning of an epidemic.
“Joey is going to town to play,” he called as my kids sauntered back home.
The next time I drove through my quiet village I noticed many teenagers out and about walking around the same awkward way—with their phones out in front of them.
“Pokemon!” I yelled through the open window. Catcalls and cheers hollered back.
Pokemon Go is available for both iOS and Android phones
Like zombies leaving the dark corners of their homes, out looking for brains to feast on, this game has lured teenagers and kids alike out into the world. Good news is a new generation is outside soaking up Vitamin D. Bad news could be the danger in the game as one becomes so entranced they forget to look for oncoming cars as they cross the street.
If you’ve been living under a rock for the past week and wondering what this Pokémon Go craze is all about, here’s how Bloomberg News described it: “The Nintendo game brings together two key features: the location-mapping common to many apps, and augmented reality, or AR, which overlays a virtual world on the real one. After downloading the app, players navigate an animated version of Google Maps, searching for Pokémon characters to capture and add to their team.”
Remember, this is using augmented reality, which Wikipedia describes as “live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics, or GPS data. Virtual reality or VR is immersing oneself into a virtual world as we have seen with goggles or helmets that fit over the eyes or head.”
The game has taken the country by storm. A research firm called SensorTower claims it “notched more than 7.5 million downloads on Apple's App Store and Google Play. It's remained atop both app stores since launching last Thursday.”
Which makes one wonder, how does a free game make money? Today, Pokémon Go employs microtransactions to bring in revenue. According to USA Today, “while [microtransactions] are mandatory, and the best way to advance in the game is simply through walking, many of the boosts for egg-hatching, Pokémon luring, or double XP are incredibly helpful, and players have eagerly shelled out real-life money for the ‘coins’ needed to buy them.” In the U.S. alone, the game is estimated to have made more than $1.5 million in daily revenue. Not bad, eh?
And of course, they are collecting your personal data, which may be a higher price tag than any of us realizes.
That means Niantic has read-and-write access to your email, Google Drive docs, and more. Don't forget that you’ll also be using up a ton of data, and the adventures will suck up your battery life.
Why does any of this matter to us? Well, we are the ones on the pulse of the industry, and you should feel the rumblings of a revolution. Perhaps gyms will gather points for equipment used or time on them, and then reward their clientele in some way. What if schools started using AR for teaching (math made interesting!)? Could augmented reality be utilized in the medical profession?
Then, of course, there is your home. How could AR change the way we live and interact in the house? We are already talking to devices. Is it crazy to say that AR could be the next technology of the home?
Let’s start the conversation now.