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Pokémon Go and the boom of Augmented Reality

A Picture of Silvana Gaia
August 02, 2016 | Topic: Technology  
Pokémon Go and the boom of Augmented Reality

Augmented, virtual, and mixed reality have been around for a number of years, but so far they have only seen gradual adoption. Until now.

Pokémon Go was released in early July 2016, and the app has outperformed all expectations. At the time of writing, over 7.5 million users have downloaded the game in the United States alone. In particular, Millennials are addicted to this reality-based game.

Pokemon go

In this blog post, I want to first examine the technology behind the game and the distinction between three types of reality: augmented, virtual and mixed reality. Also I´ll discuss in a bit more detail about Pokémon Go and what we can expect in the future.

AR, VR and MR Definitions. Terminology war

The term augmented reality is often confused with virtual reality or mixed reality. It is important to understand the difference among the terms.

Augmented reality (AR) involves a real-time view of the physical world around us, which is then improved or enhanced by digital information. Virtual reality (VR) meanwhile involves creating a simulated world, rather than our actual world around us. Mixed reality combines aspects from AR and VR, to let the user see the real world, while also seeing virtual objects in a single display.

We can illustrate the distinction with some examples.

Firstly, we see an example of augmented reality (and also wearable technology) in the Iron Man movie. Tony Stark uses a helmet with a heads-up display that has the capability to add information about locked-on objects, in this case the Santa Monica Ferris wheel.


Secondly, an example of virtual reality can be seen with the aerospace company, Boeing, which uses a sophisticated virtual reality system called CRVS (Constant Resolution Visual System). It simulates a flying experience, while the pilot stays on the ground. As you can see in the picture, the environment is fully created by the system.

picture 2

This is part of a new concept called Immersive Education.

Google aims to encourage interest and development in VR and VR applications. They launched a low-cost system called Google Cardboard, a VR platform for use with a fold-out cardboard mount for a mobile phone.

google cardboard

They have also implemented an immersive education program to provide VR experiences to school classrooms through Google Cardboard viewers, allowing educators to take their students on virtual field trips.  Each classroom kit includes 30 synchronized Cardboard viewers and smartphones, along with a tablet for the teacher to act as a tour guide.

Thirdly, mixed reality can be illustrated with Microsoft’s new holographic headset, HoloLens. It maps your room and mixes holograms with the environment around you. It can be used to play Minecraft as you can see in the picture.


Another example of mixed reality is the recently released Pokémon GO Game.

Pokémon GO Game

Pokémon Go is a free-to-play location-based mobile game available for iOS and Android. People are leaving their homes to travel around and collect Pokemon. In the game, players use the smart device’s GPS and camera to capture, battle, and train virtual creatures, called Pokémon, who appear on the screen as if they were in the same real-world location as the player.


It has quickly become one of the most used and downloaded mobile apps. To get a sense of just how popular this game has become, look at what happened recently in New York when a rare Pokémon showed up.

Niantic Labs, the company that built the game, was formed inside Google but spun out on its own in October 2015 with the formation of Alphabet. The start-up company collaborated with Nintendo to make the game.

Millennials have fueled its success, because it brings together their childhood nostalgia of playing with Pokémon, and combines it with their love of technology.


In this publication, we’ve reviewed the definition of augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality. We illustrated them with examples, including the popular Pokémon Go game. Although there is a difference among the terms, augmented reality is the most commonly used to describe the spectrum of technologies.

You can see this is not sci-fi anymore. And with huge investments from industry giants like Apple, Google, Sony and Facebook in the field, we should expect to see AR, VR and MR more commonly in our everyday lives.

The success of Pokémon Go demonstrates how willing consumers (and especially Millennials) are to try new technologies, and how fast they will adopt them. The game has also changed users expectations of what information is presented and how it is accessed. Very soon, visitors at museums will demand to know everything about the exhibit’s installations far beyond what’s posted on the walls. Young women may no longer have the patience to line outside fitting rooms at retailers, but could opt for an immediate AR fitting trial. It will be this shift in public expectation that nudges companies from all sectors to aggressively invest in AR.

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