Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last couple of weeks, you’ve heard about the social phenomenon sweeping the world, but how does Pokemon Go work? It’s released the long forgotten, super excited inner child in many twenty/thirty-something year olds, and lead to a huge wave of social media activity and news appearances.
Before I dive into the technicalities, I’ll explain a little about the game. Pokemon started as a Gameboy game in Japan in 1996, and quickly gained popularity which led to it being produced as an trading card game and then eventually an anime series in 1997. In just one short year later in 1998, the gameboy game, TV series and trading cards caught on in America and Europe. The principle behind Pokemon is simple – you try to obtain as many of the little critters as you can (up to 150 Pokemon in the original series), and train them up to battle.
Almost two decades on, the release of Pokemon Go for smartphones has stayed true to its origins. This time though, unlike collecting cards purchased from shops, or collecting tiny pixelated creatures inside a Gameboy game, we are collecting Pokemon in the “real world” by physically walking around our environments such as parks, lakes, streets, towns etc.
So how does Pokemon Go work?
The technology uses Google Maps to pin-point your location and adds Pokemon to the map for you to find. As you are walking the streets of your community, you can come across a Pokemon on the app around your location and attempt to catch it. This location pin-pointing is called geolocation technology, and is the main principle behind the Pokemon Go app.
The other piece of technology, which finishes off the app nicely, is something I’ve blogged about before called Augmented Reality (AR). When you’re in the vicinity of a Pokemon and enter a “battle” to catch the Pokemon, you can view the environment through your phones camera to see the creature in the real world.
Augmented reality gives the Pokemon Go game an edge towards reality which makes it stand out that little bit extra, but with this use of technology comes a downside – battery life. As the whole point to the game is to walk around the streets finding Pokemon with the app open using location and camera features, the battery life takes a huge hit. Similarly, as the app is constantly communicating with the Pokemon Go game servers to update locations of the user and the creatures, mobile Internet data is also used up.
The technology behind the app may seem complex, but it’s relative. In order words, the skill and time taken to create the aspect of the game using maps and Augmented Reality isn’t out of reach of most app developers.