Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pokemon Go Offers Glimpse into 'Augmented Reality' Future

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pokemon Go Offers Glimpse into 'Augmented Reality' Future

Article excerpt

Pokemon Go is more than just a wildly popular game - it is a window, albeit a primitive one, into a new, potentially far- reaching technology.

While players today hunt Poke monsters, which pop up in real- life gathering spots, in the future the technology will be able to foster communities that meet face-to-face, give businesses new ways to bring customers to their location, and allow firefighters to "see" structural vulnerabilities in burning buildings and plot exit routes.

It has also sparked privacy concerns. By marrying "augmented reality" or AR, which projects computer video onto physical space, with geolocation, the game can track where a player is. That carries risks as well as benefits.

Pokemon Go is a "primitive version of AR, to be sure," says Darrell West, founding director of the Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution. But it's also an advance look "into the technology our world will wield 10 or even five years from now."

Eight days after its July 6 release, Pokemon Go attracted 25 million users, becoming America's most popular mobile game ever, according to SurveyMonkey. Since then, the numbers have fallen off somewhat, but it remains hugely popular.

At Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., for example, the campus is replete with Pokemon gyms and stops. "It's one of the better places in the entire city of Norfolk to go on Poke Walks," says D.E. Wittkower, an assistant professor who studies the philosophy of technology and culture.

Since the launch of Pokemon, "We've seen a huge increase in students walking around talking to each other," he says. "It's been really fabulous to see this very real community pop up where people are talking to each other about shared interests in public spaces. Some were together in those spaces before, but they didn't have something they were doing together."

It led Dr. Wittkower and his colleagues to think about how they could use Pokemon to reach out to students, with plans to add Pokemon lures to bring students to temporary outdoor information desks, as well as placing counseling and writing center stops along Pokemon walks. …

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