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Going to the lake isn't the same anymore if you live where I do.
Instead it's now crammed with several hundred people in one area mindlessly tapping at their phone, swiping at their screen, and even mindlessly drooling over the high CP water Pokémon they've caught. It's probably because they're like myself - a person that has downloaded the number one most used app in the world - Pokémon Go.
Like me, they've walked past many establishments like churches and emergency services buildings. They've also almost walked into yards in order to catch that elusive Psyduck that just isn't in range from the sidewalk. They're trying to become the very best, like no one ever was.
As someone that has played Pokémon since the inception of the franchise, it's hard to not imagine the geo-location based title grabbing the attention of millions of people, and even keeping their attention as much as it can.
As someone who is interested to see where AR and VR can go? I've been keeping up with the advances in the technology that'll make my dream a reality. Namely Microsoft's project "HoloLens", Magic Leap, and Google Tango are working on making happen. As for games like Niantic's Ingress and Pokémon Go? They won't be apart of the future I'm waiting for. It also shouldn't be the future you are waiting for either.
So What Would a Real AR Pokémon Go Play Like?
When you think of Augmented Reality, we think of the world around us being part of the interactivity we're used to, which is something VR does, but with a headset to immerse us into the world our game provides. Instead, AR would use our reality to its advantage. The next step of AR: the game will interact with the world we know and adapt to it.
This means a Pokémon may just crawl from your coffee cop, making a few splashes there while dripping with that savory liquid that perks us up for the morning. It also means the AI would be moderately aware of the world around it, using it to its advantage, and making you work for the capture you've been hopping for.
This also means a bit of hardware would be required for this to happen.
Where as smartphones for purposes could be a host to this - they aren't going to be powerful enough for a game like Pokémon Go to have a full AR experience. The comparison of calling Pokémon Go an AR title is like me calling a Camaro ZL1 a Lamborghini and not making a few people raise their eyebrows.
The idea behind AR is the fact the game would interact with the world around it, not be a semi-stagnant feedback image that randomly dodges, moves, and sways away from the trainers balls. Instead? The Pokémon would probably be much more active, more realistic, and would respond to what they player is doing. This would also include the idea a Pokémon may just run off and hide behind your couch or lawn furniture in an attempt to get away.
It's Geo-Location Based
As someone who has been highly optimistic on where AR and VR can go, it's been an interesting road getting to play around with headsets such as the HTC VIVE and Oculus Rift the few times I have. The experiences have all been immersive, graphically astonishing, and even more creative than ever.
Something AR will do when we see Magic Leap or HoloLens hit shelves within the next few years. It won't be surprising if they require a moderately powerful PC to run the programs needed to make AR happen in reality.
Instead games like Pokémon Go and Ingress both rely on your cellphone's GPS in order to triangulate where you are. Once it detects your latitude and longitude, it connects with the Pokémon Go servers in order to place the Pokémon you are attempting to hunt in a reasonable location.
It also uses this data to place the gyms you can interact with on the map, but also the local Pokéstops. Pokémon Go is a great step in making augmented reality a reality! But it's a step, not the destination.
How Would a Real AR Experience Go?
When a true AR experience launches, developers will find themselves able to fully create a world around the one we live in.
They'd be able to integrate fictional characters into the world we know and even allow them to become a part of our natural world around us. While such experience my seem too-far-off, it's really not as far off as we think, but what the possibilities are? Now that's the real cherry on on top.
Imagine a world where Pokémon Go isn't just a game that bases your gameplay off your phones gyroscope and GPS. Imagine a game that truly comes to life the moment you open the app and put your headphones in.
Imagine seeing the world as a giant Pokémon game where it's teaming with life, buildings being replaced with their anime-like counterparts, and Pokémon hide in bushes, in ponds, or even behind the counter with their trainer while they work.
Imagine a Squirtle sitting beside a pond while you walk by, only to scurry off in the water before shooting water at you. This would be fully plausible thanks to AR in its true form.
All of this would be able to allow an AI to learn in order to provide us a more fun, interactive, and even fully plausible world within the things we already do. This would even allow us to communicate across maps where a certain rare Pokémon is, where their Team Mystic teammates are via a HUD based navigation system.
Outside of gaming, AR would offer new and profound ways for us to see the world around us. However, for now Pokémon Go is still only a step towards a fully AR game. It's a geo-location based game that requires the simple movement of your phone and camera to function.
But let's not say that's a bad thing! Pokémon Go is blazing the trail and is still a ton of fun as it is.