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Is Pokémon Go the Tipping Point for Augmented Reality?

Josh Srago
Pokemon Go at TEECOM
A recent meeting at TEECOM had an AR visitor.

At this point, you have probably encountered someone in your home, office, or just on the street playing Pokémon Go. The game is dominating social media and blogs, even earning a “mania” rating and its own section on the front page of a major metropolitan news site. What can the speed and scale of this sensation teach us about adoption of new technologies?

For the last decade the commercial AV world has seen technology that people use at home migrate into the board room. It’s human nature to want to find the most comfortable and convenient way of doing something and then duplicate it. People seek out familiarity. As technology has become commonplace in everyone’s lives the use of it has only expanded exponentially.

A tweet flew by the other day stating companies that didn’t exist 12 years ago. The list included Twitter itself, YouTube, Facebook, Uber, Instagram, Spotify, Fitbit, and Dropbox. Thinking honestly, how would your day be affected if these companies didn’t exist today? Would you have even found this blog without LinkedIn or Twitter? The point is that when technology becomes familiar to the point of being fully integrated into people’s lives, they seek the ability to include it in every aspect.

Pokémon Go has pushed augmented reality (AR), a formerly uncommon technology, into mass adoption. Is it simplistic? Yes. Is it something that takes little effort for entertainment for those that participate? Certainly. These are the kinds of reasons that it’s been so widely adopted (beyond the fact that Pokemon also comes with a built-in fandom).

Augmented Reality is the New Reality

The mass adoption of AR has huge implications for the AV community. Think about the possibility of an AR presence greeting you at your new job and guiding you around the office and surrounding area. Point your phone at something and tap it and a member of the staff pops up to tell you about it (credit for this use case goes to Nate Schneider). The same could apply to a local celebrity providing a tour of their hometown (also Nate’s idea), or museums, landmarks and any other tourist attraction. Think about being guided around Boston by Matt Damon, or New York by Robert DeNiro.

How about live stadium sports? Spectators are often glued to their phones checking fantasy stats while a baseball or football game is taking place. What about raising those phones to track the distance of that last home run? How about the speed of the pitches? Even going so far as to overlay the statistics of the baserunner at first and the likelihood of them successfully stealing second against this pitcher and catcher while applying real-time analytics of the fantasy sports site and its app.

Yes, the argument can be made that this means people will be living their lives entirely through their phones and it takes away from the social aspect of it. That is, of course, unless they can pay enough money for a luxury suite where the glass wall looking out over the field has an integrated transparent OLED display that allows a user to log in with their own account to the service of their choice.

The same would apply to football as the impact measurements show when a running back and linebacker collide at the goal line, the vertical leap of the wide receiver as he goes up for that fade pass, and the speed of the punt returner as he breaks through the defense. All these statistics are now tracked by the respective leagues, so why not display them on the individual viewer’s devices in real time? With the data appearing on their devices there’s also the potential for gamification. Can the viewer predict what’s going to happen next in the game?

Beyond Pokémon Go

People live with a device in their hands these days. Tying that device to their environment is only going to get easier as companies seek out more ways to get deeper user engagement. Pokémon Go is proof that people will engage in the AR platform. While virtual reality (VR) had a strong showing at InfoComm this year, there’s a much bigger barrier to adoption than there is with AR. With AR there’s no need for goggles or the creation of a built environment, since the world around the viewer is the environment.

The tech is young and will develop quickly. Where the AV industry can play its part is by expanding AR’s capabilities beyond just the phone or tablet experience and incorporating it into the user environment as a part of the viewing experience. AV consultants and integrators are the experts at creating environments through video and audio regardless of the content that’s come along. Now we have to start factoring in that content when designing solutions, with augmented reality just another tool in our arsenal.

A version of this article appeared on AVNation.

Josh Srago
Josh Srago, AV Design Engineer

As an AV Design Engineer at TEECOM, Josh focuses on education and the global view of all technology integrating together. Josh’s diverse AV background allows him to understand the perspective of the end user, manufacturer, integrator, and each party involved in a project. This well-rounded knowledge enables Josh to be an effective consultant, serve as Editor-in-Chief for AVNation, and develop into a leader within the AV industry.