Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve already heard all about Pokémon Go. The app has been in the headlines for days now, showing signs of helping small businesses increase sales, getting people of all ages to exercise, and increasing Nintendo’s stock prices. There have been other articles highlighting the negative sides of Pokémon Go, but those are usually “user error” issues that have little to do with the actual app itself. With all the buzz, both good and bad, the app has brought back the discussion on augmented reality in a big way. This discussion surfaced back in 2009 and 2010 when augmented reality (AR) was being discussed as the future of mobile usage. At that time we saw little use for AR from a user perspective because of the limitations of the technology as well as the barrier of understanding from users.
Now that it’s being brought up again, we can’t help but think that the augmented reality discussion around Pokémon Go is ALL hype, and has very little to do with true augmented reality.
How Is Augmented Reality Defined?
To understand AR, it’s important to know what specifically defines AR.
Augmented reality (AR) is a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.
Based on this, it’s easy to see how Pokémon Go could be considered an AR game, but it’s no different than this Star Wars game which demoed test footage as far back as 2010. Players had the ability to turn off the Death Star background and could then use their camera view finder as their sole view to the world, thrusting players into a world where TIE Fighters appear in your city’s skyline. According to this Ad Stage article, since there is no other information being fed into the app, the game cannot be considered true AR, maybe AR Lite at best. Pokémon Go is following the same formula and thus not some renaissance for augmented reality.
What truly makes Pokémon Go a success has less to do with the technology of how it’s works, using LITE AR and the backbone of Ingress and Google Maps, but instead relies on the nostalgia that it has cashed in on. There’s nothing wrong with this from a business perspective. In our eyes it’s a great business move because of the long-standing, deep fandom that the property has had. But for so many to sing the praises of AR done right, we can only shake our heads on that one.
Will We Ever See True AR?
Does AR have a future? We think it does, but when we first saw it years ago, it was just a fad for us. Like anything else, there were those that jumped on the bandwagon to put out a product and tag the latest trending keyword to it to get as much visibility as possible. Our reality now is that technology has advanced, battery life and storage has significantly increased (all things AR heavily rely on), and that we are at a point in our lives where AR could be integrated in our lives usefully, having both educational, business & sales, and practical usage for everyone.
This video from six years ago does a great job outlining the many uses of true AR (which they coin as Articulated Naturality Web), something we don’t quite yet have in mass usage, but would really change the way we interact with the world around us as well as our devices.
Essentially True AR will require a level of AI that is able to identify what we are seeing, take in data, and output what we are to see using our devices. So while “catching them all” may seem like a great way to pass the time and get outdoors, the reality is that the device is feeding the user information that is already stored somewhere, and not necessarily interacting intelligently with the world around you.
We’d like to know your thoughts on the idea of AR. Do you still see it as a fad? Is this something you think users would truly embrace in their day to day lives? This is a much bigger topic, and there are many angles, but we’d love to hear what you think either on Twitter or on our Facebook page.