Pokémon Go

Pokemon Logo

Pokémon Go is a new and free smart phone app (iOS and Android) that seems to be getting a lot of interest.   First I’ll explain a bit about what the app does, then I’ll get into why I am on the fence about it.

About Pokémon Go

Capturing a Meowth

Preparing to capture a Meowth

Pokémon Go is a game.    The Pokémon characters may be familiar to you.  They have been around 20 years and originally appeared in games played on  Nintendo Game Boy hardware. The object of the game is to capture all 151 different creatures, called Pokémon, then train them to battle each other for sport.  The original games did all this, but Pokémon Go takes the idea a huge step forward.

 

Getting Started

When you start the game, you are required to create an online account with the game’s designer.  Then you have a few options you can use to make your avatar look the way you want (gender, hair, cap, shirt, pants, skin color).  Once you create your avatar, it appears on a real-world map of your immediate vicinity.  The map displays real-world places like parks and tourist attractions that double as PokéStops and Pokémon gyms.  You are called a ‘Trainer.”

 

Moving Around

Unlike sedentary games,  the only way to move your avatar is to move yourself.  Its the geographical positioning component in your phone that makes this possible.  Thus,  to play the game,  you must get outdoors and move around.

In addition to a real map with your avatar positioned on it to match your real-world position,  your screen will display one or more Pokémon creatures that you want to capture.  This combination of real-world and imaginary elements is called ‘augmented reality.’  It basically adds Pokémon to your real world in an unreal sort of way.   Capturing a Pokémon involves throwing a Pokéball at the creature in just the right way.

 

Pokémon Habits

Pokémon have various habits.  They appear in different habitats and at different times of day based upon the clock in your phone.  For example:

  • at night, you might find ghost and fairy types or other nocturnal Pokémon
  • near water you might find water-based Pokémon
  • in a park you might find bug-like Pokémon

Here’s a video that offers a feel for how the game works.

So that’s the basic idea.  You gain points and prestige by capturing Pokémon by using tools at PokéStops and ‘fighting’ at Pokégyms.

Caution

There are some problems:

  • the game will eat your phone battery quickly.
  • the company collects a lot of data about you and your adventures including your precise location, time and the views captured by your camera.
  • if you log in with Google, the company has full access to your Google information
  • I suspect that if your data usage is limited,  you will see very high phone bills from using the app.
  • Some problems have been noted where people engrossed in the game go places they shouldn’t go or put themselves in danger

My Take

Frankly,  I’m on the fence about this app.  It doesn’t really help explorers,  but it does get otherwise sedentary app users outdoors.  Anything that gets people into the great outdoors meshes with our mission.  Yet the real outdoor experience is subsumed into a very unreal game. Still, if one can force their attention away from the game from time to time they might learn something about the world around them.

So,  if you spend your time playing video games indoors,  this app is for you.  It will get you outdoors and exercising without really realizing it.

If you are an adventurer or explorer,  forget it.  This app has no utility for you.

The biggest benefit from this app is that it demonstrates what can be done with augmented reality.  It’s easy to see how an app like PeakFinder could be enhanced with this technology. Other objects could also be identified with apps like this.  Virtual tours could be created, so that information about various real-world stops can be provided in the virtual world of your phone, perhaps using historical video, rather than on static signs along the way.  A creative mind could come up with lots of other app ideas that would actually get people outside and interacting with the real world around them.

Conclusion

I recommend that you take Pokémon Go for a test drive to see exactly how it works. Hopefully it will generate some ideas for better uses of the technology.   Then, I suggest you delete it from your phone.

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