In the unlikely event you haven’t had access to the internet for the past few weeks, here’s some breaking gaming news: augmented reality game Pokemon Go is the fastest growing app in history. In less than a week and a half, it’s overtaken Tinder and Twitter in active users.
Not only is it winning the battle for eyeballs in the highly competitive digital attention economy, it’s also taking us out of our living rooms and into real-life streets to roam as we play. Most importantly, it’s an incredible test case for future developers – in gaming and beyond.
According to Alexander Baldwin, lecturer in Games and IT at Deakin University’s School of Information Technology, location-based games aren’t new. He points to games such as Ingress, which was created by Pokemon Go’s developer, Niantic Inc. ‘Ingress was quite successful, but nothing on the scale of Pokemon Go. It had similar mechanics, but never attracted thousands of people to locations,’ he points out.
Baldwin says researchers and developers are keeping a close eye on the phenomenon, observing both the good and bad sides to mass-market augmented reality products. Because of the volume of users, ‘everything that’s good and bad about it is likely to be revealed quickly,’ he says. And it only took a matter of days for some of the issues to present themselves. Because the game encourages you to wander the streets while also looking at your phone, there have been injuries. In fact, people have fallen off cliffs trying to catch Pokemon.
‘It’s fantastic that it’s a virtual layer on top of the real world, but developers can only control the virtual layer,’ Baldwin says. With Pokemon popping up in hospital labour wards and funerals, it’s a reminder that developers can’t possibly predict the implications of their creation. ‘The game is also being used to lure people into crime locations,’ he adds.
‘One of the unexpected side effects is the fitness application. Long walks together provide the extra layer of motivation. You have a purpose,’ Baldwin explains. Pokemon Go has people out exercising. Some animal rescue shelters are taking advantage of people who’ve taken to the streets, encouraging them to take dogs out with them. ‘The fitness market may take tips from that,’ Baldwin says.
This is only the beginning for industries that want to capitalise on this technology, Baldwin concludes and highlights Microsoft’s HoloLens, which enables people to interact with high definition holograms, signalling the advent of holographic computing.
Subscribe for a regular dose of technology, innovation, culture and personal development.