From Pokemon Go to the Future of AR Gaming

From Pokemon Go to the Future of AR Gaming

Apart from the Line’s IPO (NYSE:LN), the biggest news associated with Japanese tech giants is definitely the launch of the mobile game Pokemon Go, and also the spectacular trend created by this application. 

However, in contrast with the articles which cut deep into the game, discussing the location-based services provided by Pokemon Go and potential benefits obtained, today we are going to put ourselves in a higher position. We are now scrutinizing how the game is able to affect the entire AR gaming ecosystem and how the game encourages the development of holograms.

For those who haven’t experienced the game like me, Pokemon Go is basically about seeking for Pokemons on the street. Through the lens of the camera, players are able to see the monster to be captured appearing in the actual world. I see this as a great application of AR technology, yet this is just a very early stage of AR gaming. 

As I have mentioned above, Pokemon trainers still need their phones to see the monsters. Therefore, I classify this as AR Gaming first generation (ARG 1G). To have a definition for this term, it basically concludes every AR game that require gamers to bring along their gadgets for complete gaming experiences. Moreover, the actions of characters are still not realistic enough. Take Pokemon Go as an example, though Pikachu has an almost identical appearance as what the Pokemon TV series have demonstrated, you can still easily distinguish Pikachu from actual world objects. Our consumer technology level up till this stage limits the fascinating performance that oughts to be created by AR systems, making players unable to fully imagine themselves as a Pokemon trainers. 

Therefore, how do we make AR gaming more realistic? That falls into the region of applications of holographic technology. Holograms are virtual images that are stereoscopic. These images appear in the real world, causing people to have an illusion that the images are part of the actual environment. Through applications of holograms, the experience will be massively improved. So, holograms will be the keyword for ARG 2G.

In fact, I believe that there are two stages for ARG 2G, and for simplicity, I will name them 2G A and 2G B. For 2G A, a gadget will still be required by gamers. They will need to carry the machine for displaying holograms throughout the gaming process. The machine might be a phone, or a head-mounted device like Hololens. To conclude with, 2G A basically only enhances the gaming experience, with almost no change on the convenience of gamers. 

Therefore, how do we transit to 2G B? The method is simple enough, yet the initial set-up cost might be quite high. As 2G B is classified as “creating holograms while players need not to carry a device with them”, companies providing AR gaming services will need to install holograms displayers at various venues. Furthermore, the corporations will have to ensure that holographic characters react according to players’ choice of action. That implies a large workload borne by the processing centre which is responsible for the centralized management of holograms creation. Nonetheless, I believe this is just a matter of cost. As long as service providers are willing to pay the bills, they will eventually earn the benefits, given that three-dimensional holograms are far much better than planar images of phones and tablets in terms of the level of reality. 

For the ultimate stage of ARG that I can imagine up till this moment, I believe the final evolution would be the perception that AR objects are having no difference with real world objects. I have mentioned that at hologram stage, people cannot separate holograms from the actual world. Yet, players just aren’t able to distinguish these two parts solely relying on their vision. Once they make use of their body parts to feel the holograms, immediately will they have a sense that they are still inside an AR gaming zone, not a totally real world situation. 

Back to the example of Pokemon Go, it means that if you kick Pikachu, your feet can feel the weight of the yellow pet. Depending on the force that you have used, the direction of the kick and other useful statistics for analyzing your movements, Pikachu will be crying for help three metres away from you. This simple action demonstrates the definition of ARG 3G. Once we reach this point, AR and the actual world becomes an inalienable part. You experience the same feeling interacting with AR characters and real world people. At this paramount AR evolution level, it is hard to tell the difference between a real world robot and an AR world robot. After all, it will no longer be necessary to use the term “AR”. 

Immersive and real experience have been the perpetual goal for VR and AR solutions providers to chase after. Oculus Rift or Microsoft, till the end of the day, they will eventually discover that what they are doing is actually the same: they are only different at the starting point, but they will meet each other at the destination.