July 22, 2016 –

The technology behind Pokémon Go

Author: Alex Clough
Alex Clough
Managing Director
So everybody’s playing Pokémon…again. The smartphone app, based on the Japanese cartoon game from the late ‘90s, is a phenomenon. And the technology behind it is igniting the digital world.

Pokémon Go – for those not entirely familiar with how the game works – is based upon the popular Gameboy series of games. However, instead of assuming the role of a character in a fictional setting, you now control an avatar in an augmented reality (AR) version of your surroundings. The app uses your GPS to connect to real-world places, and Pokémon will appear in various locations.

Pokémon Go also uses your smartphone’s camera – this allows Pokémon to appear in real-life, by overlaying a picture of one of the game’s famous monsters against the background.

It’s a smart concept, which heightens the enjoyment, what Pokémon fan hasn’t dreamt of trying to catch wild Pokémon (the series’ mascot) in their office?

However what makes the game so popular, apart from its extensive fanbase, is the interactive and impressive technology. Pokémon Go is one of the first apps to offer affordable (the game is free to play on smartphone and tablet) AR technology. And it is this innovative technology which is at the forefront of the next step in the digital revolution.

It’s fair to say that Niantic, the app’s creators, have built a fun, exciting and technologically impressive game. In addition it helps that it’s making them a tonne of money. But, in fact, the version of AR in Pokémon Go is somewhat primitive. Both Sony and Microsoft’s brands (PlayStation and Xbox) will be releasing virtual reality (VR) consoles later this year – and their offerings will surely push the technology forward.

As it stands, everyone is in on the craze, people are hunting Pokémon like it’s 2001 again. But if anything, what Pokémon Go has done best is given us an insight into the future of technology, and made us all excited about the technology that will be in place five or ten years from now.

It may appear to some to be a tedious scavenger hunt for cartoon monsters, played by a disillusioned generation (millennials) suffering from nostalgia, arrested development, or some combination of both. It may even be a fad, but the tech behind it isn’t: augmented reality is almost here. And while the best we have right now may be a glitchy version of an electric yellow mouse from a ‘90s cartoon, it’s a step into the future.