I’ll be honest; I don’t really keep up with the computational art scene. When I first heard this assignment, no particular project came to mind. Sill, I love computational art when I see it; when I was a kid, and my family visited a museum, I would always spend an unreasonably long time playing with the interactive wall projections, catching colorful raindrops in my hand or stretching out my arms to see how many digital birds I could get to land on them. While I love this sort of thing, and was really excited by the idea of this class, I can’t point to any specific project and say “That’s what inspired me.”
So, what am I going to write about? Only the latest, greatest, interactive augmented reality project that basically took over the world in less than a week. That’s right: Pokemon Go. Yeah, yeah, I know it’s not as purely artistic as many other computational art projects, but it’s an excellent example of emerging technologies coming together to form something that’s interactive, entertaining, and all-around pretty impressive.
For those of you who don’t know what Pokemon Go is, it’s a new(-ish) mobile game that allows users to collect and battle virtual animals called “Pokemon” in the real world. Players need to physically walk around to earn points, find Pokemon, and hatch eggs. It may seem pretty simplistic, but there’s a lot going on. The app uses GPS technology to find out where you are and how far you’ve walked (I tend to agree with the people who say that the phone’s pedometer would have been a better way to measure the latter). It uses data or WiFi to access game information, like what Pokemon and Pokestops are in your area. Finally, it uses your camera to display an augmented version of reality: one that includes little animals all over the place.
None of these technologies are particularly new, but never before has there been a game that used all of them to this degree, on this scale. Through this app, players have access to an entire virtual world that Niantic (the company behind Pokemon Go) has created. Real-world locations are used as Poke-Gyms and Poke-stops, and you can watch the digital avatar you design for yourself walking through your town. It’s a massive project that has gotten nerds everywhere out walking, exercising, and socializing, and it’s success could mean more augmented reality games like this in the future.
It may not be a traditional art project, but I find Pokemon Go pretty inspiring. Sure, it could use some improvements (*cough* tracking *cough*), but what’s more important than the gameplay itself is the fact that augmented reality is making its way into our everyday life. Niantic has even said that they are working on making it work on smart glasses! Pokemon Go is the first step in what is hopefully a massive entertainment revolution. If people had the opportunity to view the world around them through well-implemented augmented reality that wasn’t hugely inconvenient, it would make gaming much more immersive, exciting, and (for what it’s worth) healthy. That’s the sort of thing I want to work on in the future, and the sort of world I want to see.