Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock (and perhaps even if you have), you’ve probably heard of Pokémon GO, the new game for Android and iOS by Niantic that allows players to capture and collect virtual creatures from real world locations. The game tracks your location using your smartphone’s GPS and allows you to find nearby Pokémon. Once you’ve found an adorable little creature to capture, it uses augmented reality, which overlays game content onto the real-world backdrop of your smartphone’s camera display, to allow you to throw a ball (Pokéball) and capture your Pokémon. This is the latest evolution of a long running Nintendo series, and one of the first times Nintendo has allowed a first party title to be released on a non-Nintendo platform.
Business Insider points out that the game may get even better soon. The “Licenses” section of the game has a list of open source software and libraries that went into creating it, and right at the top is Google Cardboard. Google Cardboard is a simple and inexpensive wearable holder that works with many different smartphones to turn them into homemade virtual reality headsets. This could give the game a more immersive feel, making the Pokémon seem like they are right in front of you.
Of course, there are some potential problems that will need to be considered. The game involves walking, and that’s difficult to do while wearing a virtual reality headset. Anyone who has ever tried to walk using VR headset’s pass through camera knows how disorienting it can be. Because most smartphones only have a single rear-facing camera lens, you see the same image with both your left and your right eye, so there’s no sense of depth. It also limits the player's peripheral vision. One of the concerns of the game (even in its current form) is that it may keep players from paying attention to their surroundings, which could lead to injury. This risk would very likely be increased by making it more difficult for the player to see what’s around them. Still, once safety concerns have been taken into consideration, this is an exciting move for Pokémon GO, and may stand to make the already insanely popular game become even more of a hit.