Google Gamifies Google Maps

On March 14, Google announced a new tool that makes it possible for developers to turn real-world Google Maps locations into fantasy settings via augmented reality. A new API will transform your local coffee shop or noodle hangout into “a medieval fantasy, a bubble gum candy land, or a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic city,” in the words of Clementine Jacoby, product manager, Google Maps APIs, who wrote about the new feature in a blog post announcing the API.

What this announcement means is that Google Maps locations can be transformed into locations for experiences such as scavenger hunts, adventures, and Pokémon GO-style games. As Jacoby wrote, “With Google Maps’ real-time updates and rich location data, developers can find the best places for playing games, no matter where their players are.”

The gamification of Google Maps is more than a cool story – it’s a glimpse at the future. Google Maps will always be an essential utility for wayfinding. But as the wild success of Pokémon GO demonstrated, technologies such as augmented reality are uncovering another use for location-based information: entertainment. Continue reading

Four Companies Gobbled Up Immersive Reality Investments in 2017

There is good news and bad news for the immersive reality industry, which consists of businesses that provide augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR), and virtual reality (VR) products. First the good news:

  • These investments occurred across 28 categories ranging from education to music, suggesting how wide-ranging immersive reality is.

Now the bad news:

  • More than half the investment came from just four major players: Improbable, Magic Leap, Niantic, and Unity. As Lucas Mateny of Tech Crunch noted, the actual deal flow for smaller immersive reality start-ups is getting smaller.

The largest category of investment was gaming, partly because of the $200 million received by Niantic, creator of AR sensation Pokémon GO the forthcoming Harry Potter AR game. The popularity of gaming apps underscores how immersive reality continues to be perceived as an entertainment phenomenon on the consumer side. But gaming accounted for only one tenth of the total investment into immersive reality for 2017, with hardware devices (such as smart glasses) and applications across many other fields accounting for the lion’s share.

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Will Apple Take Augmented Reality Mainstream?

Apple critics have been quiet lately.

The company is worth more than $900 billion after beating Wall Street’s expectations in its November 2 earnings report. The iPhone 8 is selling better than expected. Consumers are lining up to buy its most expensive iPhone ever, the X. And the iPad just might be making a comeback.

Tim Cook is talking like a visionary, positioning himself and Apple on the cusp of changes in technology and human experience. For instance, Cook recently declared on an Apple earnings call that augmented reality is “mainstream” and that “Apple is the only company” that could have made augmented reality mainstream.

His comments evoke Mark Zuckerberg’s bold announcement that Facebook intends to get one billion people to use virtual reality. And, like Zuckerberg, Cook is being ambitious, considering that only 12 percent of the U.S. population is expected to use AR at least once a month in 2017. But there is reason for AR backers to be optimistic: usage of AR is growing by 30 percent over 2016 according to eMarketer.

Apple’s strategy to accelerate the uptake of augmented reality is to provide a development platform for the creation of AR content and to  rely on popular Apple devices as Trojan Horses to deliver that content to consumers.

But to realize the potential of augmented reality for widespread consumer and corporate use, Apple might need to do more — such as the creation of an augmented reality headset.

Augmented Reality Breaking Through

Augmented reality refers to an experience that alters our perception of reality by overlaying computer-generated content on to a physical space. Augmented reality is being used in businesses ranging from hospitals to amusement parks to train and entertain by enhancing our worlds with digital content such as holograms and 3D objects with which we can interact. In the automotive industry, augmented reality might enhance driving by overlaying content such as signage on a driver’s windshield, reducing the need for the driver to strain to read street signs while navigating. For AR to break through to more mainstream consumer use, the experience needs:

  • Great content.
  • A ubiquitous, user-friendly delivery mechanism.

Apple provides the latter through the manufacture of its devices and is enabling content creation by providing the necessary tools and media platform.

Apple’s Role Continue reading

How Pokémon Go Took Over the World with Augmented Reality

3045687-3026698-pokémon+go+logo+copyThey’re in my house. They’re in my car. They’re following me to the store. Of course, I’m speaking of the Pokémon who inhabit the world of Pokémon Go, the augmented reality game that has invaded the lives of smartphone owners all over the world since its general release July 6. Seemingly overnight — actually, faster than overnight — Pokémon Go has schooled the world on the power of augmented reality, a technology that is expected to support a $120 billion market by 2020. Thanks to Pokémon Go, it might be time to raise that dollar figure and speed up the adoption timeline.

With Pokémon Go, you use your smart phone to play a game of discovery and battle with Pokémon from the video and card game that Nintendo made popular in the late 1990s. Thanks to augmented reality, Pokémon can seemingly pop up anywhere as you view the real world through your phone screen, including your own bathroom or your backyard. Your job is to catch them, train them, and prepare them for battle with other teams (in designated spots called gyms, which correspond with public places in the real world that you can find by getting out of the house and exploring with your phone as your guide). At locations called Pokestops, you can collect supplies and goodies to assist in your quest to find and train the Pokémon on your own team. As you capture harder-to-find Pokémon and win battles, you level up.

Since the game’s release, I have spent some time playing the game with my daughter, Marion, and friends. I’ve wandered around the town I live, Downers Grove, Illinois, jumping up and down in excitement on public streets while I’ve experienced the thrill of capturing Pokémon. Here’s why I think Pokémon Go resonates:

The Game Rocks for Pokémon Fans and Nonfans

First off, Pokémon Go is flat-out fun for both fans of the legacy Pokémon game and people who know little about Pokémon. The experience has all the elements of an enjoyable game, such as questing, play, skill testing, winning points, challenging others, leveling up, and joining teams. Both single players and multiplayers can enjoy it, and you can keep a session going for as long as you have the app open, which is crucial to creating player engagement.

Marion and I are not really conversant in the ways of Pokémon, but we play games on occasion, and it was easy for us to get the appeal of Pokémon Go straight off. Learning the rules is pretty easy — which is essential for me, as I have zero patience for games with complicated instructions — and yet achieving points is challenging enough to keep your head in the game.

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