It’s life Jem, but not as we know it*
(*Ed. as Mr. Spock did not say)
Welcome to the amazing world of Augmented Reality. This has often been portrayed in many sci-fi books and films over the years, I’m sure that you can think of at least one movie that has some sort of heads up display (Iron man films as an example) or some kind of X-ray vision through a building shown up on a display somewhere.
Well as fun and crazy as that may have seemed watching the loveable characters interacting with this technology in a fictional environment, now we see Joe Public having the opportunity to get a hands-on experience with this technology right here, right now, today…for free!
The basic idea of AR is that you superimpose a computer generated image on top of a direct or indirect real life image, therefore giving the illusion of a computer generated character being displayed on your screen as if being in front of you in real life.
Pokemon are go!
This has most recently come into the public focus by its use in the Pokemon Go app (of which I am sure that you have heard about by now?!) The reason that this game has really taken off and currently has more daily users than Facebook or Twitter is that it takes the original idea of a computer game and turns it on its head (in a rather cool way).
By the way, the original Pokemon or Pocket-Monsters universe dates back to the late 1980’s and the launch of the Nintendo Gameboy.
With a normal computer game you are in control of the character on the screen and you can move that character wherever you want in the game. You can play this game at any time and for as long as you like from the comfort of your living room, bedroom or place of your convenience. However, what make games such as Pokemon Go different is that instead of you moving the character with your fingers…you become the character in real life and in real time!
With Pokemon Go you physically have to walk around real streets in order to find and catch Pokemon. The app uses your phones GPS signal to pinpoint your location as well as your clock to know what time zone you are in and this adjusts parameters of the game. When it comes to catching a Pokemon the app turns on your camera and you have to pan around in order to locate the Pokemon in the real world environment albeit that you are the only one that can see it on your screen. This has led to a wealth of pictures surfacing online of Pokemon in amusing or rather inappropriate places.
You also have to visit real places of interest in order to be able to stock up on supplies that you need in the game and you can unlock things by walking 2km, 5km or 10km while playing the game, which can take a while.
So not only does this game encourage the players to get active by getting out and about to walk around outside it has also opened up a level of camaraderie between players. People who have never met or spoken before can now easily initiate conversion with a stranger in order to help or gain insights into the game. Now this can be done in an online environment but this promotes actual human interaction which I think is important without being able to hide behind a screen name on the internet.
These aren’t the Pikachu you are looking for
But as with all good things comes a slightly less wonderful side. People have been seen lurking around streets at ridiculous times of the night (even young children have been sneaking out to play). There have also been many complaints on players trying to gain access to real life places where they may not be welcome. Just have a quick search on Google and you will find many examples of these.
So all in all my opinion is this…I have had a great time playing this game and am continuing to enjoy playing it as are many of my friends young and old. I can see how the novelty of ‘real life’ gaming has started a poke-ball rolling and I imagine it will continue to pick up momentum.
I see Augmented Reality in the gaming world to be a double-edged sword though. Yes on the one hand it can help people get motivated to get out and active and to interact with real people, however what happens when you can start acting out fantasy scenarios in real life situations (I’m thinking primarily of violent games). Will the game makers take responsibility for where this could all lead? I’m not so sure they will if its not making them lots of money.
Besides gaming the virtual worlds of Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality have a lot of practical uses in industry, education and leisure pursuits from guiding surgeons to 3D tours of cities for tourists, and the ability to walk around your potential new home, a hotel room or concept car. I digress, this is a bigger topic for another time,
So, while you are happily hunting down your Pikachu, Charmander and Ivysaur imagine that you are at the cutting-edge of a technological revolution, but be careful out there!
Author: Jeremy Bull, IT tutor, website developer and founder of How2UseIT
An IT elementary school collaboration
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