Augmented reality, sounds pretty cool right? Like something out of a near future science fiction realm where everyone has hover-boards and dresses like they're in The Fifth Element. But of course AR does exist, and it's become heavily invested in over the past decade, though it is still an evolving technology with perhaps more practical applications than entertainment features. But what exactly is augmented reality?
Augmented reality (AR) involves a direct or indirect image of the real world in which certain elements are augmented (altered) by computer generated input. This input can be images, sound, video, graphics or other data such as GPS location information - a common use of AR technology.
An exciting upcoming AR game is landing next year in the form of Pokemon GO, a mobile game for iOS and Android which allows players to interact with virtual Pokémon characters in the world around them.
The launch trailer landed a few months back and was met with pretty much universal excitement. It's certainly an impressive concept, especially for those who grew up alongside the evolution of the Pokémon games.
An smartphone based AR game, Pokémon GO will use location-based markers to allow users to "catch" virtual Pokémon based on real life surroundings and locations. At the moment it's looking like the game will launch with just the original 150 first generation Pokémon, with later generations possibly being added in further down the line.
But whilst AR has many practical applications we've yet to see a game that really cracks and utilises the technology to a successful degree on a mobile platform. There's been mild if expensive successes on console platforms for AR games but nothing massively breakthrough to speak of for mobile platforms yet.
However Nintendo, The Pokémon Company and Pokémon GO developers Niantic could be set to change that. Nintendo have branched out into augmented reality before with their 3DS console offering some limited features like the AR cards and 3D games such as Face Raiders, but nothing that you could call a real runaway success.
And sure, the Pokémon GO trailer gives us impossible expectations for the game. Augmented reality is still a developing technology, and Pokémon GO will be one of, if not the, biggest AR games yet when it launches next year. The whole concept of the community events - Mewtwo in Times Square! - would be absolutely breathtaking to see, if they can find the correct integration between the AR tech and the outside world to make it work.
So basically there's a lot resting on Nintendo pulling this off. The Pokémon Company and Nintendo will be working with AR developers Niantic Inc. to create the game, which bodes well as Niantic have displayed previous successes with their AR game Ingress.
Ingress is a location based augmented reality MMORPG for iOS and Android, and it's become massively successful since it was first released nearly two years ago. It utilises AR tech as it involves players finding portals throughout the real world and linking them together to create geographical control fields. The more control fields you have the more mind units you capture and "control", which affects your progress in the game. Ingress currently has around 7 million players using the app worldwide, so there's precedent for success there.
The Pokémon name and the Niantic record for success could be the thing that manages to make Pokémon GO a reality, and if this works it could have a knock on affect on the AR games in general with a possible renewed interest. But can Pokémon GO pull it off? Only time, and the elusive release date, will tell.