It’s been just over a week since Pokemon Go was dropped into the smartphone masses and players have already been robbed at gunpoint, stumbled over a real dead body and managed to troll the Westboro Baptist church. The response to this game is explosive and some say a defining moment in the history of technology.
Using their fitbits to record the number of steps they are taking in the outside world, are a staggering number of self-proclaimed nerds who are venturing outdoors to play a game intended for 10 year-olds. And, they are being joined by plenty of non nerd types of all ages.
Pokemon Go is a free-to-play location-based augmented reality mobile game recently released for iOS and Android devices. It was published by the Pokemon Company as part of their highly successful franchise.
It’s incredibly easy to spot players. They are wandering around outside near gyms and pokestops with their phones in hand. You’ll see groups of people standing outside buildings trying to capture the two-headed, ostrich like monster bouncing around on the sidewalk. What’s the point of the game, you ask? “To catch them all,” say players.
The power of the technology used in Pokemon Go isn’t particularly new but using augmented reality helps connect us to other people and the environment in a way that hasn’t been done before. Smartphones have had augmented reality (AR) for awhile. It’s used in your camera, GPS and position sensors.
In the new game app it’s applied as a digital world layered over the real one. Unlike virtual reality games, this one takes you to your own universe. And, it takes you outside to the real world to hunt for crazy looking creatures like Weedles (caterpillars wearing birthday hats).
The game starts out like Google Maps, plotting your location on the virtual landscape. You see real buildings, roads, parks and businesses. Pokemon will pop up around you. Tapping one launches your phone’s camera and you will see the critter overlaid in your own environment. The trick now is to capture the creature. This is pretty easy, small white and red PokeBalls are lined up beneath your overlay. Aim your phone at the monster, swipe the ball toward it and you catch it.
If you need more Poke Balls you can get them for free by visiting PokeStops which are landmarks or historical points of interest. These sites are marked by a blue tower on the map. You can also buy PokeBalls in the app for $1.
When you are at the blue tower you can also collect eggs which will hatch into Pokemon if you actually keep walking with them. You may have to walk a long way to get one to hatch but that’s good exercise, right?
There are hundreds of cute monsters you can catch as you stroll around. You collect them to become the ultimate Pokemon trainer. The goal is to put them in a fighting ring at a gym location in your Pokemon world. Here you battle with someone else’s monster.
Safety can be an issue with this game so take precautions. The game is designed so you have time to look at your phone safely. You won’t see any creatures in the streets so you shouldn’t stop in the roadway to capture any nearby. Stories have circulated about people stepping into ponds and trying to catch Pokemon while driving. Don’t do these things. Use common sense.
Several people have been mugged after being “lured” to a location where they can find several monsters. These lures are purchased for $1 and last for 30 minutes. At public spots, be aware of your surroundings. Don’t go to unlit, deserted areas after dark and pay attention to people around you. If kids are involved in the chase for Pokemon remember “Stranger Danger.”
As far as digital security goes you should know that Niantic and Nintendo collect some personal data including your IP address and location while using the app. When you sign up for the game your safest bet is to use your Google account. A previous error in the Pokemon Trainer Club account registration had an error that caused iPhone users to inadvertently grant full access to Niantic when logging in with a Google account. That problem has been patched.
Good luck on your monster hunt! And, if you need a battery back up, a new battery, cables or a screen protector to help you on your hunt, stop by WynWay. We’ll be happy to help you hunt for Pokemon.
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