Opinion

Pokemon Go Shows Augmented Reality Games Are the Future

 
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Pokemon Go Shows Augmented Reality Games Are the Future
On Sunday, a parent I know took a group of teenage girls to Washington's Newseum, ostensibly for them to learn about the news-gathering business. Instead, one of the girls said that they spent "about 60 percent of the time playing Pokémon Go."

Perhaps, though, the girls were on to something, because relatively few news stories have been as viral in recent days as the Pokémon Go craze in the United States, Japan and Down Under.

Nearly 6 percent of Android devices had installed the augmented-reality Pokémon Go at one point over the weekend, making it more popular than Tinder and reportedly capturing twice the user time as Snapchat, as maker Nintendo saw a $7.5 billion surge in its market value since the game's release last week.

(Also see:  How to Download, Install, and Play Pokemon Go Right Now)

Early reports were describing this as a gaming phenomenon, ascribing the activity to the popularity of Pokémon - a wave that, I overheard several times over the weekend, "even got my teenager to go outside" with a device. (To play, you walk outside and look at your smartphone to view an animated version of Google Maps, in which you see the Pokemon creatures that you're trying to capture.)

But in truth, this sort of activity is now poised to become the new normal.

For decades, tech and gaming companies have increased the player's sense of total immersion in virtual realities. But now, isn't the greatest digital-friendly frontier to return to reality-reality? Only now, it's augmented through your mobile device.

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The masterminds behind Pokémon Go had deep experience in working with Google apps that rely on satellites to track the Earth's surface.

Now, what's to keep the Comcasts and Apples and Amazons and Disneys of the world from making our naturally 3D world the exciting new area of augmented exploration on a scale as massive as Pokémon Go?

The standard line about the future has long been that we were promised jet-packs. Or personal drones. Or self-driving cars. Well, we may well need self-driving jet packs to aid in the natural hunger for augmented gaming. Games like Microsoft's Minecraft and Google's Ingress (also, like Pokemon Go, from Niantic Labs) have represented key steps along the way to this crucial point; now the format seems primed to carry over to the masses.

(Also see:  Pokemon Go Cheatsheet: 10 Things to Know About the Game That Has Everyone Hooked)

There, too, are a wealth of new cottage industries to be mined from this trend. How long until there are reality programs and game shows built around competitors armed with mobile devices in the augmented "real world"? Or how long until we are playing these interactive games televised internationally by media and entertainment titans?

Any chance of adding this at the last minute to the imperiled Rio/Zika Olympics? The augmented marathon? Now that I would tune in to.

Pokémon Go has reintroduced many device devotees to the wonders of the natural world, albeit through a screen - as you spot hundreds of Pokemon creatures appearing, for instance, on local landmarks. The global possibilities are profound.

If only Mother Nature had thought to outfit the planet with natural charging stations.

Natural life meets battery life. What a concept.

A planet thanks you, Pikachu.

© 2016 The Washington Post

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