Pokemon Go Underscores Public Desire for Augmented Reality

July 19, 2016 - 2 minutes read

When Matthew Blake, a 14-year old suffering from autism, finally began reaching out to his peers and socializing, his mother never expected that the source of his “cure” would be so simple. The cure, needless to say, is Pokemon Go — the latest craze sweeping the tech industry and sending iPhone app developers scrambling for their poke balls.

“Matthew is high-functioning autistic, so communication is not always easy, and finding something that we both have in common isn’t easy either,” said the boy’s mother to Eyewitness News. Once terrified of going out in public, Matthew now willingly interacts with complete strangers on the street, gaining a newfound sense of community in the process.

Matthew’s story is inspiring, but what’s really exciting about this and similar stories of the social power of Pokemon Go is the potential for tech to break away from associations with anti-social activities like “Facebooking,” and instead bring people out into the world and into contact with one another. Any NYC iPhone app developer who’s been in central park the past week can attest to the potential, as complete strangers literally bump into one another searching for rare pokemon in the street and parks of cities all over the US.

Games that require excessive physical movement, on the other hand, have often proved to be fads in the long run. Wii, for example, followed a similar trajectory from immense popularity to obscure curiosity. The question for iPhone app developers is: will augmented reality that uses mobile phones as a gateway to alternate worlds prove to be a fad as well? Only time will tell. In the meantime, friends and strangers alike will be out in the street “catching them all.”

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