Pokemon Go Just Revived AR

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The viral sensation is a big deal for AR and gaming, and could even change the way businesses monetize mobile data.

pokemon Go logo
pokemon Go logo

Plenty of headlines speak to the huge and global success of Pokemon Go, the viral sensation that consumed the world within hours of its launch.

Pokemon Go has been a topic of excitement amongst gamers since its initial unveiling in a trailer last September. This hype showed little signs of spilling out of the gaming community though, even after the game’s beta test. Everyone, gamers included, was caught completely unaware by the sheer volume of interest Pokemon Go generated when it launched last week.

The game is so successful that its servers cannot sustain the millions of daily users jockeying for space in its augmented reality world; an inconvenience that hasn’t stopped the game from raking in an estimated $ 1.6 million a day, nor did the server issues impede a recent 25% surge in Nintendo stock.

What’s somewhat missing from discussions around Pokemon Go, however, is the resuscitative effect it’s had on AR.

With the release of the Oculus Rift, and several other forthcoming virtual reality products, talks of VR have engulfed the digital world, seemingly absorbing all discussion around augmented reality in the process. After years of promises, the prospect of interspersing our physical world with digital objects and products seemed to be sliding out of vogue, with some going as far as to question whether AR had a future at all. The launch of Pokemon Go threw a serious wrench into these musings.

Pokemon Go could herald a monumental shift in AR software development.

Previously, AR offerings were largely constrained to businesses, most specifically retail, in a way that added to consumers’ shopping experiences, but not really in any significant way other than the inherent novelty of augmenting reality. If AR has been struggling as a media option, it’s likely because existing applications of the technology have been, frankly, boring.

Pokemon Go bucks this trend in several ways, most notably by way of its nature as a game. Beyond that though, Pokemon Go is a game based on a powerful and established brand, one that also has incredible organic synergy with AR. Combined with its low barriers to entry (smartphone proliferation)  and seamless sign-up process (Google account integration), Pokemon Go stands to normalize augmented reality, perhaps in ways that elude even virtual reality.

Another less-than-obvious ramification of Pokemon Go’s runaway success could be in the ways it collects and utilizes mobile data.

Google account permissions issues aside, Pokemon Go requires and collects reams of data from its users. Such access is fairly common among mobile apps, but remember the massive daily user estimates circulating the web about the game’s audience: more than 7 million downloads, and millions of daily users. That’s a ton of data that potential Niantic partners will have access to (come on, there’s no way retailers aren’t flooding Niantic inboxes begging to sponsor a Pokemon Gym in their store).

Beyond a mobile gaming explosion, Pokemon Go is shaping up to be a scalable proof-of-concept for an AR, geo-social network, one replete with location data, Google accounts, and dozens of the little monsters we grew up trading under the lunch table.

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