When you're playing Pokemon GO, you could simply turn the sound on, flip on the battery saver mode, and pocket your phone until the game alerts you of something of interest nearby. While some glitches have been reported with this play style, and this weekend's update has robbed iOS players of this option, playing with your face buried in your phone as you trot haphazardly through your hometown or a hunting ground you've traveled to is a terrible idea. Just ask the people who walked off of a cliff while playing, or any of the other Pokemon GO players who have made headlines for the wrong reasons in the short time the game has been available. Niantic CEO John Hanke agrees, and says that he wants players to look up from their phones and see the world around them.
According to Hanke, he and his team at Niantic specifically built the game to encourage exploration of the world around players, but that noble goal seems to have backfired quite spectacularly. He went on to say that he is eagerly awaiting the release of the Pokemon GO Plus wearable, which alerts players without them having to be looking at their phones and, in theory, should allow the original appeal of the game to shine through; the beauty and intrigue of the real world, interspersed with Pokemon.
Speaking on the future of augmented reality gaming, he took the speculative path and talked about possible upcoming technologies and different form factors for AR devices. Hanke said that it will be a process, and not to expect overnight change. While at least one firm, Magic Leap, looks poised to challenge that notion when their own commercial AR product finally launches, Hanke pointed to the rise of mobile phones as the AR platform du jour, stating that they are ubiquitous and versatile enough to make for a near-ideal AR content delivery system. As Pokemon GO has proven, however, AR gaming needs the right attitude from both the content creators and the players in order to reach its full potential without running into some seriously newsworthy blunders on the way.