Pokemon Go: The 'Killer App' for Augmented Reality

Last Wednesday, Pokemon Go was released, and the Internet broke down.


The game shot to the top of the Google Play store, resulting in more installs than Tinder, more Daily Active users than Twitter and Snapchat, and the quickest rise in Nintendo’s stock price since 1983.


If you've seen large groups of people outside sitting in one place with their heads in their phones, don't worry. It's not a mark of our smartphone-obsessed times (mostly), but a signal that there's a Pokemon close by.


So, why is the world going crazy?

What is it?

Pokemon Go, developed by Niantic Labs, is the smartphone version of the ridiculously popular Pokemon handheld games. Like the original, you catch virtual creatures called Pokemon, battle other Pokemon trainers and grow your Pokemon team. Unlike the original, you're doing all this in the real world. Say what?


To find wild Pokemon, players need to view the world through their phone cameras, and key game locations are mapped to real-world landmarks. This could be anything from schools, government buildings, malls, or even police stations. The types of Pokemon you catch depends on factors such as where you are and the time of day. 


Catching a wild Spearow pokemon with your smartphone camera on Pokemon Go


So what does that mean?

Pokemon Go is unprecedented in creating wholescale behaviour shift and making people venture outside. Since the game emphasizes travel, it's resulted in a feeling of real camaraderie and connection among its players. It's not uncommon to see packs of players clustered around city landmarks at strange hours.


In fact, these landmarks are attracting so many people that marketers have already begun salivating at the possibilities.


If Niantic adds player battles or Pokemon trading features (these already exist in the handheld console versions), then Pokemon Go has the potential to become the first truly social game experience. 


As a result, Go has transcended its childhood origins and gained wider significance as the first mainstream success for Augmented Reality (AR).


People playing Pokemon Go outside


The future

Yet, while we at Kiwi are excited about AR right now, we're even more excited about AR in the next few years. For one, we think the smartphone interface is going to be replaced by gestures.


Compare throwing a Pokeball versus swiping on your smartphone to catch a Pokemon: What's more intuitive? What feels cooler? Which one makes you feel like you're more a part of the game?


Let's go even further. Imagine you wield a lightsaber and battle it out with your classmates, who’ve suddenly morphed into Stormtroopers.


Or imagine you're at a music festival and the entire festival ground becomes the stage for a massive treasure hunt where you can win prizes by picking up virtual items.


Or imagine you're at the Olympics and you’re able to race against an AR version of Usain Bolt that’s been projected onto the running track.


Or imagine the world outside becomes a post-apocalyptic wasteland, and you're tasked with evading zombies, and collecting journals and audio recordings to piece together what happened.


Or imagine you're in preschool, and suddenly Dora the Explorer pops up and takes the class on an adventure through the woods.


Your world is transformed.