In approximately 1987 my uncle told me that virtual reality technology was coming. He predicted when it did, it would start in Japan and people would be more addicted to it than heroin.
Since then, the story around virtual reality (digital version of the world) and augmented reality (digital objects placed in the physical world) hasn’t changed much. The technology has been relegated to academia, R&D departments and narrow applications…until Pokémon GO. The game leverages geodata from several years of Google-maps style data to allow players to use their neighborhoods and surroundings as an immersive digital game board, and it surpassed ten year-old omnipresent microblogging site Twitter in daily active users in less than two weeks.
So when it comes to Pokémon Go, it’s not so much about the game as it is about the first widely-adopted manifestation of augmented reality technology, where digital information is placed in the context of our physical world and the possibilities that opens up.
Now that my uncle’s prediction is starting to come true – as evidenced by the fact that half of the connected world is walking around in public spaces in packs all staring at their devices – it’s kind of annoying, but it immediately makes me think of a thousand things like it that I can’t wait for. Here are just three:
1) I’d like to go to a live concert by a local band and have an AR app that allows me to collect live show points to unlock exclusive content.
2) I’d like to be able to watch the Stooges at CBGBs NYC in approximately 1979, in a fully immersive virtual reality world – the kind where you’re in a green room with a headset on that places you physically at the show – looking up at Iggy dripping blood down on to my sweaty head.
3) I’d like to stand in between LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee in 1989 while they battle rap, turning off the beat every once in a while just to throw a game of dozens for a bit.
Of course, the commercial applications are abundant as well. Marriott is testing out “VRoom Service” in London and New York City, which provides guests with a Samsung Gear VR headsets programmed to allow guests to “visit” Chile, Rwanda, and Beijing from their hotel room. In my industry, public relations, it’s only a matter of time until the “virtual press conference” idea AltspaceVR tested out last year becomes common.
I’m not taking a stance on whether you should or should not embrace Pokémon GO. I am saying you really ought to try it, at least, long enough to open your mind and meet our new augmented world.
For more, follow Matt on twitter @ashmatty