Video and online gaming used to involve hours of sitting, either in front of a console or computer screen, from the comfort and solitude of one’s own home.
The popularity of Pokemon Go has changed everything this past month. Developed by Niantic, the game uses augmented reality (AR) and location-based technology to combine the gaming world and the real world through the use of smartphones. Millions of people worldwide are hooked. Players of Pokemon Go can be found nearly everywhere staring at their smartphones while roaming the great outdoors in search of new and rare Pokemon.
Pokemon Go is not the first game to use AR technology (the game itself was evolved from Ingress, a similar AR mobile game developed by Niantic in 2012), but it definitely brought AR gaming into mainstream culture. Now that Pokemon Go has been out for a month and its mass popularity has declined slightly, the question is: what’s next for the gaming industry?
Many thought virtual reality (VR) would be the way to go prior to Pokemon Go‘s release. Companies like Samsung and Intel have released VR headsets within the past year, and Intel even boasts on their website that getting a VR headset will “unlock the future of gaming.”
Mike Zyda, founding director of USC GamePipe Laboratory, disagrees. He said in an email conversation that current VR technology is all about display, whereas AR technology allows players to interact with the real world and have more opportunities to socialize.
“People don’t want to wear VR HMDs (head-mounted displays) very long before they want to take them off to see other people or the real world, and so they don’t trip. AR will be bigger and more successful, as you can socialize with people as you do it,” Zyda wrote.
Zyda teased that developers and researchers within USC are working to advance the development of AR. That said, he mentioned there will be more to expect from VR technology in the future. He said additional sensors will be added to move players closer to the computer, which seems to be the ultimate goal of VR.
Virtual reality is not the only gaming technology that will compete (or coexist?) with AR. Magic Leap, a startup company launched in 2010, is working on technology called “mixed reality,” or MR. As Eric Johnson explained on Recode, MR aims to “combine the best aspects of AR and VR” into a new experience that allows users to see believable VR objects anchored to points in real-world space. Zyda described Magic Leap’s technology as a “direct projection” of computer graphics into the user’s retina that the user can then interact with.
Sounds amazing, right? At the moment, however, this is all just a dream for consumers as Magic Leap is still in the process of perfecting their MR technology. But as Magic Leap founder Rony Abovitz told Wired last year, “When we launch it, it is going to be huge.”
As we wait patiently for Magic Leap to release their MR technology and amaze us with a truly augmented world, we can explore the real world around us while catching Pokemon. Augmented reality is here to stay — we haven’t seen the last of it.