Pokémon Go is much more than just a game. The “game” broke the barriers between the digital world and real life showing people what augmented reality (AR) is.

The portable app developed by Nintendo and Niantic is going to be remembered for having the world changed forever. In the E3, Sony and Microsoft dominated the scene with their new consoles, interconnected platforms and their bet on Virtual Reality. In fact, the biggest gaming exposition in the world was based on the launch of a couple of games and everything related to VR.

Pokemon Go
Pokémon Go is much more than just a game. The “game” broke the barriers between the digital world and real life showing people what augmented reality is. Photo credit: Alucinalow

In contrast, Nintendo said in the past they were working on an AR game based on the very successful franchise that Ash and Pikachu started back in the 90s. Then, Niantic revealed the Japan-exclusive beta of the game was going to be available on March 4 this year, and the announcement confirmed the suspicions. The Pokémon Company had taken a different path from the rest, instead of VR, they were going to bet it all on AR.

What is the difference between AR and VR?

The information has been available for a very long time now, but for some reason, many people don’t know the difference, and implications, of AR. In contrast, VR has been popular since the 90s. It has been featured in movies such as “The Thirteen Floor”, “Arcade” and “eXistenZ”. However, the most famous of them all was “The Matrix” which can simplify what virtual reality is. In the movie, the main characters use technology to access the world that only exists on a computer server. They basically take their conscience into an avatar in the virtual world.

Modern technology cannot transport someone’s conscience into a computer world, but game developers are working very hard in gadgets that stimulate the human senses. Ultimately, they want to allow players experiment the games like they were inside them. The concept is full of potential. Nevertheless, its main idea limits its importance. People are supposed to interact in a digital world, but the virtual universe is not intended to merge with reality. In other words, it does not really exist.

That is what makes augmented reality so important because AR is supposed to impact our real world, improve it.

Pokémon Go is not an app, is an extension of reality

Augmented reality is meant to improve the world humans inhabit by bringing elements from the digital realm to people’s lives. The name is self-explanatory. Niantic did not create a universe, it just uploaded a new feature on the server scientists named Earth. It sounds like sounds a little weird, but given the facts, it is the simplest explanation.

To deepen into the subject, it would be necessary to ignore that players need a smartphone to play it. With that in mind, people now can go and catch Pokémon in their neighborhood. Moreover, they cannot do it without the proper tools, so a new industry was born. Pokeballs, candy, luring items, and many other things are needed to catch ‘em all, so people have actually to walk down the corner to look for an “open” store to purchase what they need.

There are three main factions players can join, Mystic, Instinct, and Valor, all of which have different cons and pros. But the fact that people choose their team based on their personality and what their friends want is fascinating. For instance, the Instinct team could adopt a particular group of Pokémon and battle strategies as part of their role as Pokémon trainers, and if someone likes aggressive tactics, it is unlikely for that someone to join a group that uses a different strategy. In the end, people will probably be subdivided by their Pokémon go, team. Something like “Valors are boring” or “Mystic are shy people”.

The reality as it is known is being forced to change

Whether the public opinion likes it or not, the real world is changing, or rather, it is being obliged to do so. The app went instantly viral the day of the release, and there are millions of people looking “playing” the game. Players get on boats and paddle to the middle of a pond to catch a Squirtle. They go to the mountains looking for Bulbasaur, and lot of pictures and videos show similar cases.

The increase in physical activity could help with the obesity problem, and the North American people are learning how the metric system works. This is real exploration, the only difference is that explorers are not looking for a tangible something to take back home, they live their adventures through their smartphones.

Not everything is perfect, and there is a lot of people alarmed by the situation. Players wondering randomly could get themselves, or others hurt without intention, and it is just the beginning. Not everyone can handle change, and the success of Pokémon Go will definitely re-shape society.

Some people might look at Pokémon Go players as losers while others enjoy the hype. But what they really are is the beta testers of a new reality.

Source: The Wall Street Journal