Within days of the launch of Pokémon Go—which allows people to track down, catch and train Pokémon in augmented reality via their GPS-enabled phones—estimates were in the millions for US downloads, causing Nintendo’s stock to soar.
In less than a week, the game has resulted in a phenomenon of mass, impromptu meetings of people, and players complaining of sore legs. Also, robbers have used the technology to target people, and a young man was stabbed while playing—then continued playing before going to the hospital.
Why the unprecedented fanfare and seemingly unusual behaviors associated with the app?
Pokémon Go, developed by Niantic Inc., may be uniquely situated at a junction merging the nostalgia of Nintendo’s decades-old franchise with imaginations of the future, one in which our realities will be heavily augmented.
“The Pokémon franchise has been around for 20 years and as a result has a large, multi-generational, pre-sold audience,” says Judd Ruggill, a University of Arizona associate professor of computational media. “I suspect that both general and scholarly interest in augmented reality technologies will continue to grow, particularly as people begin to understand more deeply what it means to have computers as playmates, not just as playthings.”
Ruggill is an expert in video game technologies. He responded to four questions about Pokémon Go and the advent of augmented reality reaching a mass, public audience.
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