Pokemon Go Means the Advent of Brave New Virtual Worlds


I won’t even bother explaining what the Pokemon craze sweeping the real and virtual landscapes is because if you don’t know you must have been living under a rock. And some aspiring grandmaster has by now probably lifted up that rock in search of some obscure rock-type Pokemon that found its way into your sequestered living room. So you do know after all.

Confession; I tried it, caught two Pokemon, one of which was floating above my workplace computer. Then a friend sent me screenshots of my email supposedly sending out spam emails, so I deleted it and changed all my locks. Maybe there’s something to all those much hyped security concerns, maybe not. The fad has arrived, it will pass like all fads do and so will the backlash, like they do as well.

Here’s the interesting part for me, not so much Pokemon Go as the proof of concept it provides. What comes next in this augmented reality? On a side note, I bet Google Glass and other VR-Smart Glass technologies are kicking themselves they didn’t partner up before this craze hit, it would have been an ideal launching platform because it may have just provided the impetus for what the next big technology is, and provided a reason for a sudden massive uptake the same way iPod and smartphones have in the past. In any case…

Obviously I’m going to look at what AR (augmented reality) offers from a writer’s perspective. Story-telling, so on. I have a degree in history so I could come at it from that perspective, come to think of it, but that’s boring. Why would you want you use AR to provide a virtual overlay of Pompeii as it was before Vesuvius erupted, complete with Roman citizens, or visit the Lincoln Memorial and hold up your phone to see the crowds and Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech recreated, when you could do that with something more relatable.

Take the Pokemon Go concept and apply it to something like Harry Potter, exploring London in search of fantastic beasts, if you know where to find them. Sounds similar right? How about seeing the rest of the world recreated, the world muggles can’t normally see. The Knight Bus, maybe a stray Dementor or two. Gives you a cold shiver right. Apply that to something like the Mortal Instruments and you have the whole hidden world of the Shadow Hunters laid out in your own urban backyard, all the monsters and demons and the impossible architecture you never knew was there. Or take a tour through my own home country of New Zealand and see the Lord of the Rings landscape laid out over the film locations, and watch the Pelennor Fields unfold where it actually happened. It would make climbing Mt. Doom (real name Mt Ngauruhoe) even more arduous (I’ve done it, it’s really, really arduous) with all those orcs and goblins and wraiths on wings buzzing you.

I don’t think it will take long before you see movies and TV and other products promoted in this brave new virtual world, now that the mass public has woken up to what until now was a pretty niche thing. The tech has been there for a while, now it’s accessible. And when you start taking it a few steps further it gets even more interesting. Head back to virtual Potter-land and your smartphone becomes a wand, bring voice recognition like Siri into the fold, yell out “expelliarmus” or “wingardium leviosa” and brandish your phone the right way and watch the effects on the virtual landscape through your phone’s screen, or maybe those VR glasses that suddenly don’t seem so pointless. NPCs dangle shrieking from one angle, upturned robes flapping around their heads, or maybe it’s your best friend’s virtual avatar that’s hoisted into the air or momentarily disarmed. You might get some odd looks from the nearby public but that doesn’t seem to bother the Pokemon crowd any so that’s ok.

I have a former classmate heavily involved in using virtual reality to tell stories. I imagine him practically salivating at the possibilities just around the corner and the massive public interest about to swing his career’s way. I’m thinking gaming, TV, movies, the real and virtual worlds are about to get a whole lot more blurry. It’s going to be fun, and sorry to the haters but Pokemon Go is only the beginning…


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