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How Nintendo is Using Augmented Reality in Pokémon GO

How Nintendo is Using Augmented Reality in Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO is an app launched by Nintendo this past Wednesday, July 6th. The app uses an interactive virtual Pokémon world that interacts with real world locations to create a game like experience unmatched in mainstream mobile gaming. The objective of the game is to find, collect and battle as many Pokémon creatures as possible to earn rewards and unlock new features. While this app is making tidal waves in the mainstream market, location based experiences are nothing new to those familiar with augmented reality (AR).

The Pokémon GO app launched just this Wednesday, but Ninetendo shares have jumped up 10 percent by Friday morning according to CNBC news. Aside from some small bugs that are inevitable in a new app launch, app users are going crazy for this interactive game. Reviews in the App Store are vastly positive. One user put it this way:

"Playing this game is a great way to get out of the house....exploring the environment around us is a really nice touch. It's exciting to really be a Pokémon trainer in the real world."

Now, if you are curious how they are able to accomplish this using AR, let me explain. The Pokémon GO app, built using the Unity platform, pulls down mapping data based on your GPS location. Given the fact that you are able to log into the app via your Google account, it appears they are using the Google Map API to generate their own mapping system. A back end server then launches new Pokémon creatures based on time as well as locations. Technically, you could stand in one location for a period of time and a creature would most likely spawn there every so often. However, once the Pokémon appears, the objective of the game is not to just see the creatures but to actually catch them. In order to capture and track your movements as you chase the Pokémon, the app taps into the accelerometer and gyroscope that are built into your phone.

Something interesting to note about this experience is the Pokémon's ability to appear on the ground just in front of you. (Take a look at the screenshots below for some reference.) He isn't floating somewhere in front of you (most likely), but actually appears to be standing there on the ground. This is because of predetermined settings in the app that assume you are holding your phone at a 45 degree angle to your body. This 45 degree angle set within the app allows the accelorometor in your phone to predict the horizon and thus make the Pokémon appear to be on the ground. While this angle is the standard way most people will hold their phone, you may experience some glitches or floating Pokémons if you are holding your phone at a dramitically different angle. 

Pokémon GO screenshots

AR has been making its way into the mainstream world for quite some time now. We saw an explosion of AR consumer marketing in the last Superbowl and a massive investment into the virtual reality space by the biggest players in technology just in the last year. I'm not surprised in the least to see AR so positively received in the game space. It was a natural progression and in a lot of ways, the low hanging fruit. Millenial consumers especially are more than willing to download a free app to experience the latest game from their favorite childhood gaming system, Nintendo. 


AR can be used in a variety of ways to excite, engage and interact with audiences whether that is through games, training or marketing. The applications for the technology are endless. See a few ways we've used AR for our clients by downloading our AR Sample Book below. 

Free augmented reality sample book!