Augmented Reality – Pokémon and Early Adapters
“Who would win, Blastoise or Charizard?”
“Blastoise duh, he’s water type. Fire is weak against water type.”
“But Charizard is also flying type.”
“Do we need to find out?”
Let the battle commence.
While somewhat dramatic, this conversation is reminiscent of many held on the playground during my childhood. The argument of which Pokémon was the “coolest” or which would prevail in battle was common in school. No one was immune to the pervasive reach of these “pocket monsters” that manifested in collectible figurines, Game Boy games, board games, school supplies, TV, VHS, and of course game card collecting. If you didn’t own a piece of it you at least knew about Pikachu and its adorable red-spotted cheeks. Advertisers had us hook-line-and sinker for their Japanese-derived characters and reaped the profits. Our generation that was infatuated with Pokémon is now a part of the working world, a part of an economy that is completely dependent on our spending habits.
Almost no human emotion is as strong as nostalgia, also known as the “nostalgia factor”, and profit seeking companies know this (Alexander, 2014). This includes technology driven companies, who utilize brilliant engineers to create innovations that are adapted by users who act as poster children for their new products. These early adapters are the people who first tried out the new Apple Iphone, and are now using Google Glass to the chagrin of general society. New technology takes a bit to be embedded into the dominant discourse of society, but once it is there, functioning with this technology rather than without is the new normal. Pokémon creators are using this new technology to their benefit, creating Pokémon GO. By utilizing advances in mobile gaming they aim to draw on our nostalgic memories of our childhood and literally make Pokémon a reality.
Augmented reality will reach new social status through Pokémon GO because of a few reasons: first, the company behind it already has experience using this form of augmented reality, bypassing many first-time trial and errors (Rosenberg, 2016). Second, this already established technology with the Pokémon brand will create a marketing frenzy, reaching new users who have the purchasing power to indulge into childhood nostalgia. This use of augmented reality, combined with deeply rooted childhood memories, spells for economic and technological success.
Anne Galloway says that augmented reality, “attempts to overlay physical objects with virtual objects in real-time and allows people to experience the virtual as if it were real” (Galloway, 2004, p. 390). Once a user downloads the app on their phone, they will be able to “see” Pokémon by looking at the world through their phones. Just as we once did in our Game Boys, we might find a wild pikachu in the park, but this time in the same park we walk our dog. “For aspiring Trainers, it could be an entirely new way to interact with a now 20-year-old franchise” (Rosenberg, 2016). But unlike when we were kids, we can share this experience with others. As Kelley writes, “To activate such pervasive devices for use in everyday life much effort has also been spent developing software applications to mediate, augment, or otherwise produce the collective experience of urban space” (Kelley, 2014, p. 841). The augmented reality incorporated into this game allows users, or trainers, to interact with other trainers as teammates in order to claim a landmark, for example, for their team. The ability to play this game with others will help augmented technology to become a part of our daily lives.
But in order to achieve this proliferation, Pokémon GO needs to be introduced to the public only when it is guaranteed to work perfectly. “…the complex, social, cultural, political underpinnings of such potentially invasive technologies may in fact turn against their intended purpose, and rather than enhancing the experience of the city cause backlash from the community they were supposed to serve” (Kukka, 2014, p. 33). Google Glass may be experiencing this backlash right now. Its invasive nature involving abilities like instant recording is still very new and untested in general society. And how to use Google Glass the way it was intended still needs to be taught to new users. Pokémon GO, however, is easily added to our already understood and integrated use of smart phones. The company behind Pokémon GO even has a successful app already in place called Ingress that they are using as a base for Pokémon GO’s interface, “For Pokémon Go, Niantic took the tools it developed with Ingress — including its database of interesting and historical places — and brought them into the world of Pokémon. Those recorded places will become PokéStops and Gyms, where players can pick up items or compete against other players” (Rosenberg, 2016). This adds to the proliferation ability of this game, and therefore also facilitates the adoption of augmented reality technology into general society.
Kukka and colleagues used a similar technique to properly introduce Oulu. “Further, as we wanted to engage the whole community and not just those who had an interest in new technology, our stories featured scenarios that were easily understandable and approachable even with superficial understanding of technology” (Kukka, 2014, p. 34). To bridge augmented reality technology out of the hands of early adapters and into those of the general public, developers need to translate complex processes into press-and-play realities. Google Glass fails to appeal to a wide enough audience to be ushered into mainstream consumerism. Pokémon, however, is the embodiment of consumerism. Even though the app itself will be free, that hasn’t stopped other “free to play” games from making huge profits these last few years. Mobile gaming made 36.9 billion last year, and is set to make more money than console games for the first time (Kharpal, 2016). The makers behind Pokémon GO have set themselves up with both timing and technology to work for them. Augmented reality is about to explode.
Even though some experts believe that it may take up to 10 years for augmented reality to become commonplace among citizens (Rosenberg, 2016), I believe that Pokémon GO will usher this form of augmented reality into the hands of the general public because of its inherent nostalgia, easy to acquire nature, and the already prevalent smart phone user base. To this day I remember when my “friend” stole my Raichu. Maybe with the new Pokémon GO app I can catch a new one.
Alexander, S. (2014, October 15). Pokémon: The nostalgia factor. Retrieved July 02, 2016, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/11162921/Pokemon-the-nostalgia-factor.html
Galloway A. (2004) Intimations of everyday life – Ubiquitous computing and the city. Cultural Studies 18: 384-408.
Kelley, M. J. (2014). The Semantic Production of Space: Pervasive Computing and the Urban Landscape. Environment and Planning A, 46(4), 837-851.
Kharpal, A. (2016, April 22). Mobile game revenues to overtake console, PC for first time. Retrieved July 02, 2016, from http://www.cnbc.com/2016/04/22/mobile-game-revenue-to-pass-console-pc-for-first-time.html
Kukka, H., Luusua, A., Ylipulli, J., Suopajärvi, T., Kostakos, V., & Ojala, T. (2014). From cyberpunk to calm urban computing: Exploring the role of technology in the future cityscape. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 84, 29-42.
Rosenberg, G. (2016, June 30). To Be The Very Best: Pokémon Enters Into Augmented Reality. Retrieved July 02, 2016, from http://www.npr.org/sections/alltechconsidered/2016/06/30/483857216/in-pokemon-go-an-app-to-become-the-very-best