Pokémon GO – Why AR is more exciting than VR

I guess everyone has heard about Pokémon Go already – after all the whole internet is amazed by this simple yet captivating game that’s got us all running after imaginary animal-like beings like crazies. The trick lies within location based augmented reality, which creates a totally different layer to the world we live in. Not only do we get to collect Pokémons in a video game, but we can do so in our everyday environments with our friends. In order to play the game, we have to interact in both the augmented and physical worlds. That is what makes not only Pokémon Go, but augmented reality in general, so impressive.

Just to cover the basics real quick, Pokémon Go is all about collecting Pokémons and related items, developing and evolving those furry little cuties into battle born champions, and eventually challenging powerful gym leaders for fame and glory. Unlike in a typical video game, the map is based on the actual map of the world, which means you really have to walk into every in-game location. Niantic, the developer of Pokémon GO, has already proven the concept in their previous game Ingress.

In it’s core Pokémon GO is just like any other mobile MMO, but on augmented reality steroids – which seems to be working really well! There are kids and adults everywhere staring at their phones and running after tiny monsters. The game is moving tons of today’s people, and driving traffic in to real life locations. There are even stores and cafes who report their revenue has increased since Pokémon GO was launched. The best place to have your business right now is clearly close to a PokeStop or gym. Marketing managers around the world are trying their best to utilize this new phenomenon, and it’s only been around for few days!

The reason augmented reality is so great, is that it enhances the world we already have, unlike in virtual reality. Sure you can create a virtual world resembling ours, but it wouldn’t be the same. Once we put those headsets on, we remove ourselves from the this world and exchange it to another. We can be seemingly social through multiple applications, but the experience is still isolated from our own reality – you know, the one we live and breathe in. None of that applies to augmented reality.

It’s a social experience shared by anyone, anywhere. All you need is a smartphone or tablet, and it’s not like mankind is running out of those things anytime soon. We are literally staring our screens all day every day to begin with, which makes the platform so great. Instead of competing with hardware, the only thing you’re up against is those other apps people love to use – and Pokémon GO already surpassed Facebook in engagement.

Adding such game to our existing world makes it more personal and real – even if it’s only cartoonish monsters we see through our screens. Making people physically work to achieve their goals is brilliant, and not just because we need to get our daily exercise. It creates another layer of immersion, something we often aim to achieve trough photorealistic graphics or compelling writing. I took a detour to my actual gym the other night, just to stop by the nearest PokeGym too. I really felt like I’d hit two gyms that day – after all I had to walk there.

We are no strangers to augmented reality either. Check out what Umbra can do for HoloLens.


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