The AR and Pokemon Go phenomenon and its impact on Startups and Industry

22 July 2016

Welcome to the world of Augmented Reality! Screams the new game craze to hit the world. Pokémon Go within a few days of its launch in this current month of July of 2016 has taken the gaming world by storm.

Don’t be surprised if you have come across headlines like these over the past few days:

  • Man crashing his car onto a tree distracted by the game
  • 2 men fall over a fence in San Diego trying to capture Pokemons
  • Man in New Zealand quits full time job to play game
  • Teens in Florida shot at while searching for Pokemons
  • Teens stuck below 100 ft caves while playing game

This is only a mild flavor of the impact of this vortex like trend which is hogging global headlines. Media houses are suddenly in love with the game. Debates and discussions dissecting the pros and cons of playing it have become the toast of the season.

What is the brouhaha around this game actually?

While a lot has been written about Pokemon Go over the past few days, let me give you a concise version for the benefit of the uninitiated.

Companies like Google have for long been promoting AR through their Google Glasses and Microsoft their Hololens, both augmenting your vision to see virtual objects blended with reality. With the trend of gamifying catching on in recent years it is actually a surprise that no one really leveraged the GPS technology be blended in with Augmented Reality previously. The Pokemon phenomena on its part has taken the lead overnight and has caught the world by storm creating an augmented reality game that appeals to the masses.

The Pokemon world involves capturing ‘Pokemons’ or cartoon characters which you can catch by flinging ‘Pokeballs’ at and then putting them in ‘Pokedecks’.  One can then train Pokemons to fight with other Pokemons in the virtual world. The overall beauty of this game is enhanced by the fact that one can find Pokemons congregate in real world hot spots like malls, bazaars, tourist locations, etc.

Needless to state, gaming is an essential part of our lives and we all need such distractions no matter what. The creators of this game have intelligently leveraged this insight to develop an enigmatic phenomenon that is fast overrunning the planet.

What are the reasons for this unprecedented popularity?

  • For one, it is extremely gratifying since it is a game and you have different levels to achieve.
  • It has ‘Gamified’ fitness by getting youngsters and gamers to move out of their homes on to the streets for the first time.
  • The Augmented Reality factor of seeing your real world environs coexist with augmented characters is a visual treat.
  • AR is a new concept and has been brought to life for the first time through a game, with easy access to anyone who owns a cell phone

Adds Pradeep Nair, Co-founder & CEO of Product consulting firm Confianzys, “The important thing for AR to really take off, is to identify the underlying problems that impact its users and to address them in the development stage. We are all witness to the fact that Google and Microsoft were not able to make it a success despite their near infinite resources and their early start advantage. However what Pokemon Go has done is to address all underlying challenges and show to the world what a dynamic technology AR can be.”

What does this mean for the industry?

I believe this has opened a world of opportunity for Startups and conventional businesses.

AR was hitherto seen as a native technology that wasn’t properly tapped due to multiple challenges, considering the big guns like Google and Microsoft have been at it for many years. However now the overnight success of this game will encourage a whole new breed of developers, programmers, Startups and entrepreneurs to dab with this technology.

The avenues for creativity in AR for marketing and ad promotions are plenty.

What Pokemon Go has done in reality is to virtually open up the way apps and brands can envelope users in a virtual world.

  • Imagine a movie being promoted by augmented characters and heroes of the movie visiting your home.
  • Imagine visiting tourist location and being guided by virtual characters through AR.
  • Imagine your favourite political leader visit you at your office or home to share an augmented message.
  • Imagine walking into the winding Vatican Museum riddled with history and memories and guided by AR to make it an educative journey.

Startups can also learn about user involvement and loyalty building for their apps and services

Imagine what it will do to app developers who have been distraught in recent years owing to increased competition from me-too copies and the lack of recognition for individual apps. This success is bound to spawn a whole range of new ideas that if positioned with market opportunities can change the world around us.

I was recently part of a discussion forum organised for Startups in Bangalore. No surprise that the Pokemon Go phenomenon popped up during the course of the 2 hour discussion multiple times. For Startups I believe this is a goldmine that was waiting to be found. Talented entrepreneurs from around the world will now excavate marketing opportunities riding on this modern phenomena.

I am sure following the success of Pokemon Go, VC’s and investors will look at AR with renewed interest and respect. This will in turn naturally encourage Startups to put on their thinking caps in their goal to impress investors to attract funding for unique ideas.

Here’s to a whole new world of Augmented Reality that can change the way we engage with the world around us!