07:00 PM

Pokémon Go-ing where no tech has gone before


Augmented reality game takes off and creates path to the future.

By Brett McPherson

It’s hard to miss the people meandering through campus in seemingly aimless patterns – phones at eye-level, one finger swiping strategically.

They are trying to “catch them all.”

Pokémon Go is the hottest new thing in mobile technology and Auraria Campus is one of the 10 best locations in Denver to capture the game’s creatures, compete in virtual gyms and connect with teams of red, yellow or blue.

The game is also a gateway to future technology.

It takes place in what is called augmented reality, which is a virtual overlay to what we experience in the physical world, according to Chris Jennings, an associate professor of interactive media production at Metropolitan State University of Denver.

“You can see a 3D representation of the real environment on your mobile phone screen,” he said, “then you see the different Pokémon Go characters pop up and appear inside that environment.”

Pokémon Go, and apps like it, are based on GPS locating that is so accurate it results in significant realism. It’s not far off from technology such as holographic environments, currently only common in the movies.

Jennings said that as the popularity of games in augmented reality grows, the possibility of more advanced technology becomes easier to accept for people beyond just the early adopters.

“Pokémon Go exposes augmented reality to an entirely new demographic of audience that might not have paid attention to it before.”

But racing for the future isn’t without challenges.

Blurring the lines between real and virtual worlds proved problematic for two Commerce City police officers who were recently dismissed for playing Pokémon Go when they should have been training. The early onset of the game resulted in several accidents and even deaths from people not paying attention to dangers in their environment.

In an attempt to thwart privacy and national security threats, U.S. federal regulation requires these applications have a 30-meter range of inaccuracy built in, Jennings said. “If somebody were to use GPS on a consumer phone and try to send a missile, or something that disastrous, 30 meters could mean everything.”

So objects in augmented reality aren’t exactly where they are expected to be, which means tenuous hunts for virtual creatures across Auraria Campus will continue. With each step toward a new Pokémon, we inch ever-closer to a new technological future.

“College campuses provide a rich environment for that,” Jennings said.