Have you seen an increase of these symptoms in the people around you?
- Adults staring at their phone while navigating a crowded sidewalk.
- Groups of people (also staring at their phones) gathering at very random corners or abandoned buildings
- Strangers driving around, stopping and parking at the most random places (even, quite possibly, in front of your house).
- Children aimlessly wandering around your neighborhood, phones in hand and eyes on phone.
What you’re seeing isn’t the smartphone-zombie outbreak. It’s the Pokémon outbreak.
To play, you walk around the real-world, following a Google Maps-like interface, until signs of a nearby Pokémon appear on screen. When you hold up your smartphone camera, the Pokémon is overlaid on the screen using augmented reality (AR), allowing you to capture it.
As an upside, players get more exercise than usual and can learn more about the historical landmarks incorporated into the game as Pokéstops. Digital signposts describe their significance in the real world.
These digital signposts are more than just landmarks. They are churches, parks and even abandoned buildings. Even the White House and the Pentagon are included in the fun. In many cases, these digital signposts are active, open businesses. For business owners, if you are lucky enough to host one of these locations, this is actually a great marketing opportunity.
Here are some tips if your location happens to be a prime Pokemon location:
What it Means for Businesses Right Now
- Businesses that are "Pokéstops":
- Use a lure! A lure increases the likelihood of rare Pokémon to show up at your location. It’s marked by pink flower-petals. When users see this, they will very likely make their way to your Poke-stop.
- Businesses that are “gyms":
- Host “tournaments” or Pokémon-related events.
- Create signs/ads promoting your “gym."
- Have “Pokémon" sales.
Do you think your location should be a Pokéstop or gym? Fill out this form and shoot them a request! You can also request that dangerous or unreachable areas be removed. Even if they don't add you as a digital signpost, there is a list of possibilities to come in newer AR applications.
What it Means for All Businesses in the Future
- You will be able to bid for your location to be a “stop” or area of interest (similar to PPC bids, or media buys).
- Data will start to be collected not just on the websites users visit but on the PLACES they visit, how long they spend there, etc.
- Physical advertising/business practices will make a major comeback as they will marry AR to make a unique, creative experience for users.
But this story isn’t just about Pokémon Go. It’s about the beginning of a revolution of a technology that has been around for decades—Augmented Reality (AR).
Augmented Reality vs. Virtual Reality
Just like any technology, it doesn’t find success at birth. It’s the application of the technology that really brings it to life.
Virtual Reality (VR) has been around for just as long as AR, but it hasn’t hit it’s stride due to all the drawbacks in its practicalities. Whether its price, aesthetics or usability, there hasn’t been a universal application for VR that has taken the world by storm like AR now has.
Here are some plausible reasons why AR is winning the consumer race so far:
- Authenticity: Augmented reality combines what is familiar with a digital experience.
- Price: Virtual reality requires expensive headsets and controllers whereas augmented reality can be used on a mobile device.
- Usability: Pokémon Go shows that the future of AR doesn’t have to be a clunky, awkward-looking headset, it can be our regular smartphones.
- Interactions: Even more encouragement to interact with friends and strangers (and your brick and mortar business).
Of course there will be naysayers and critics. Yes, there will be news stories about how augmented reality has caused car accidents or people falling into manholes. But there’s one part of this revolution that you won’t read in the news—the magic it brings.
Usually when we see people walking by while staring at their phones, we have a negative perspective of them. We think, “there's a whole world out here and you’re staring at your phone.”
We make this judgement even though we are guilty of it ourselves. Where is the disconnect? Why do we judge others for doing the same thing we do?
Shared knowledge and shared experiences can help us overcome this judgement. Before, you had no idea what people were looking at when they were looking at their phone. When we see people staring at their screen but we have no idea what they’re doing, we judge.
With this revolution, when we see others looking through their phones into an augmented world, we can imagine that we know why. We feel an immediate emotional connection with that person. Almost to the point where we want to stop them in the middle of the street to ask, “You playing Pokémon Go?” with a pitch of excitement in our voice. This is when we feel an involuntary smile rise on our face, because we know the answer is yes and we associate our emotional experiences with theirs.
Imagine that—a world that was once considered “hopeless” because of our obsession with technology being brought back together by the very thing that was blamed for driving us apart.