Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock since July 6, 2016, at least you know that millions of people around the world are now spending every free moment hunting Pokemon. (For the uninitiated about to correct my grammar, I’m sure Pokemon is both singular and plural, there are no ‘Pokemons’). It’s an international obsession, resulting in the new ‘Pokemon Go’ app being downloaded more than 15 million times in the first 6 days of its launch in Australia, Japan and the United States.
What is Pokemon? Technically, it’s a little critter that appears in video games. Catch one and you can train it to fight others. The basic concept hasn’t changed, although (believe it or not) Pokemon are now 20 years old. It was that long ago when some clever computer folks came up with the Pokemon video game for Nintendo’s Game Boy handheld device. At that stage, most people didn’t have access to the internet and Pokemon were strictly offline critters. Still, according to Wikipedia, the Pokemon franchise has sold about 280 million copies, making it the second most popular game franchise ever based on unit sales. Gross revenue for the franchise exceeded $46 billion during that time, which technically could make Pokemon’s empire bigger than Greenland or the Cayman Islands. Those guys need to think seriously about getting a national dragon!
Over the past two years, a number of other smart people who work at Niantic, part-owned by Nintendo, have been working hard, or should I say ‘pokemoning’ away (yes, it’s a real word) to produce the latest and greatest edition that was released. released on July 6, 2016. On that date, the cages were opened and Pokemon ran, swam, and flew to all four corners of the Earth where they can be found today. Straight away. I can see them. Sure, I can only see them through my Android looking glass, but Niantic promises that very soon I’ll have my own personal ‘Pokemon Go Plus’ wearable device – a kind of lapel clip – that will alert me to the presence of a nearby Pokemon and let me track it down without touching my phone. Everywhere you go on earth you see these lapel clips buzzing away. fuss. fuss. And you thought cell phones going off in theaters were a distraction!
Why does this even matter? Please bear with me while I wear my geek boy glasses for a while. Firstly, Pokemon Go is an “augmented reality” system of sorts. Many people and organizations have tried to make these systems mainstream, without commercial success. The early popularity of Pokemon Go shows that augmented reality could really be another revolution on our doorstep, changing our lives more than texting and selfies (for example). Hunting Pokemon is just the beginning of this revolution. Second, the convergence of artificial intelligence and augmented reality opens the door to a world where constant companions will be with us wherever we go, greatly enriching our experience of the world. Think Siri on Oxandrolone.
Some readers will recall “Clippy” and other attempts to supposedly enrich users’ experiences with desktop productivity software. If you don’t remember Clippy, you’re lucky. Clippy was an annoying wannabe who sometimes made you feel like hitting the screen to make him disappear. And maybe that’s the point here. We don’t want enrichment forced on us. What we want is enrichment that is there when we need it or choose it, like a friend in our life that we invite to join us. Pokemon may be seductive and magnetic, but they don’t invade our space unless we choose to. Simply put, friends are for when we want to play or share experiences, and sometimes when we want to pour our hearts out for a good listener. . Newsflash: Dr Pokemon will see you now.
However, sometimes friends lead you astray and get you into trouble, and apparently “‘I was collecting Pokemon’ is not a legal defence,” according to police in Western Australia. Really? So if I chase my imaginary monster friend into your backyard, I can’t plead insanity? (find “Pokemon Insanity” online. It’s already a thing). I hear people are now putting up signs on their properties telling Pokemon trainers not to go there. Some lawyers even suggest that if you come onto my property and take my pokemon, it’s theft. You have been warned.