Pokémon Go: Your Augmented Reality Day Dream, Niantic’s Data Dream



July 21, 2016

As millions of gamers/users wander the globe collecting Pikachu’s and Jigglypuff’s, losing weight in the process, bumping into things, trespassing, and bunking off work/college/school, Niantic, Inc. who developed the mobile game ‘Pokémon Go’, is collecting data about these individuals.

By using your phone’s ability to track the time and your location, the game imitates what it would be like if Pokémon really were roaming around you at all times, ready to be caught and collected. And given that many original Pokémon fans are now adults, this idea has the extra benefit of nostalgia, helping boost its popularity. In Pokémon Go, you have to travel around the REAL word, and the game uses your data as well as the smartphone or tablet clock to detect your location on the in-game map and decide which Pokémon appear around you.

The question is – why is this so popular and what makes this bigger than Twitter and Facebook and Tinder right now?

What if Pokémon weren’t limited to the games’ world? What if they were real and inhabited our world? What if we could all be Ash Ketchum, the TV show’s star trainer, who travels the world in a quest to catch all Pokémon and earn bragging rights by defeating gym leaders? This is what augmented gaming is about – it means you combine real world with fantasy with the use of your camera and location tracking and then use your network to start an adventure you’ve always dreamed about.

Whilst you’re on that adventure, the app is telling stories about you…Pokémon Go can tell a lot of things about you based on your movement as you play: where you go, when you went there, how you got there, how long you stayed, and who else was there, and Niantic keeps that data, which is constantly growing as more and more people engage with this game.

The app’s detailed and very granular, street-by-street map data, combined with its popularity, may soon make it one of, if not the most, detailed location-based social graphs ever compiled. Social mapping and augmented reality come to life is a dream come true for “Big Brother”. It means that data about virtually everything you do via the app, your device and Google is stored and ready to tell a story about who you are and your behaviour.

Customer behaviour, human behaviour and fantasy behaviour all combined together is somewhat exciting but also quite scary for the person it tells a story about. However it does tell some compelling stories – marketing agencies, retailers and businesses would surely pay a lot of money for a slice of this data nirvana insight.

If executed properly and adhered to, augmented reality games can tap into a sense of your childhood imagination that most other games can’t do. I remember running around the playground imagining I was Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones, James Bond, or, a Transformer but I don’t have time for that anymore. These games do the imagining for you — by augmenting the world around you.

It also acts as an escape. While that certainly applies more to virtual reality, which can immerse you entirely in another world, Pokémon Go gives you the opportunity to temporarily forget about all the terrible atrocities happening out in the real word, and to explore the beauty of the gaming world, catching some Pokémon along the way in a way which feels almost real…