Inside XR - July 11th, 2016

Inside XR (Jul 12th, 2016)

Pokemon GO mania hit the U.S. over the weekend, and it seems pretty fair to say that the game represents a huge step forward for augmented reality in terms of awareness and cultural application. We've decided not to fight the madness, but rather to devote a whole issue to gathering the most interesting, funny, helpful, and (no kidding) profound things the Internet had to say about Pokemon GO - from conspiracy theories to one-liners to letters from the "this isn't MY Pokemon, now my childhood is ruined" wasteland.  We've all taken a bold step forward now, people, in the pursuit of little imaginary monsters.


The Pokemon GO misadventures are already piling up. Players are risking injury by walking into things, playing while driving and even kayaking into the sea to find Pokemon, leading developer Niantic to leave a disclaimer that you must play safely and at your own risk. Meanwhile, criminals have figured out how to use the game to lure players to specific locations and rob them.

Pokemon GO has brought augmented reality to a mass audience, sending players out to parks, beaches, churches and even outside people’s homes to capture and train Pokemon. This has the unwanted side-effect of bringing a bunch of strangers to other people’s property -- though trolls used this to their advantage when they turned the Westboro Baptist Church headquarters into a Pokemon “gym,” guarded by a pink Clefairy named Loveislove.

This Pokemon GO player found a particularly spooky “gym” located at a memorial statue in a local park. The D.C. Holocaust Museum has had to officially request that trainers please stop hunting for Pokemon on the grounds, and may explore a filter that would exclude them from the game entirely.

Other users have reported finding Pokemons in and around cemeteries.

Pokemon GO is missing features promised in the first trailer, including trading, fully-animated characters and group battles -- though some of these features may appear in future releases. For now, there’s Pokemon GO Plus, a Bluetooth device that gives you a few special perks -- but it’s already sold out for the time being.

The huge popularity of Pokemon GO may prove that augmented reality games will soon be more mainstream than virtual reality technology like Occulus Rift, Gear VR and Playstation VR. In fact, the app is so popular that businesses are starting to use it to drive real-world traffic by setting up PokeStops and gyms at their locations.

As with most high-profile launches, the Pokemon GO app has its share of problems. Game developer Niantic Labs has compiled a list of the known bugs, including a “You already own this item” error message and a glitch that automatically resets you to Level 1.
Pokemon GO is already bigger than the dating app Tinder, getting installed on 5% of all Android devices in the U.S. in the first two days. The company reported that its daily user count was about to match and surpass that of Twitter.


At BirthMoviesDeath, Devin Faraci comes right out and says "Pokemon GO: Better Than VR."

On Medium, David Byttow wonders why this new AR game caught fire in a way that the developer's previous title, Ingress, did not. We agree with David when he says "he's pretty sure it has something to do with brand."

Elsewhere on Medium, mobile project manager Christopher Nheu wonders what makes the game so addictive, and relates the story of the other night when he and his girlfriend went out into driving, umbrella-thrashing rain in search of a Krabby - and found one. 

Gizmodo locates some learning underneath in all that fun by noting that Pokemon GO is forcing everyone into taking a crash course in the metric system.  

Matt Haughey writes that he missed the entire original Pokemon sensation of the early 90s, but found himself hooked on the new AG version in five minutes. 

Pokemon GO reportage doesn't get warmer or fuzzier than Gizmodo's story crediting the game with bringing families together. While noting the possibility that the high cell phone bills from the game's data use may get families back to being mad at each other again, Gizmodo reports mom, dad, and the kids are currently getting together and having a blast with the app. 

Gizmodo also states the obvious (someone had to) with a piece called "Pokemon Go Just Made Augmented Reality Mainstream." 

Engineer Adam Reeve called the game "a huge security risk" in a tumblr post, and announced that Pokemon Go could read your Gmail and Google Docs; After speaking to Reeve (who walked his statement back a bit,) Gizmodo wrote their own post to assure fans that "Pokemon Go Was Never Able to Read Your E-mail." Google and Niantic are working on a fix for the permissions issue, which the developer acknowledged was an error.

Gawker thinks there's a good possibility that the game is "a government surveillance psyop conspiracy."

TGN Gamers see the possibility for other franchises to get in on the AG action: 

Vox says real-world racism spoils all the augmented reality fun, pointing to Omari Akil's Medium piece, "Warning: Pokemon GO is a Death Sentence if you are a Black Man."

Plenty of sources have shared plain old tips on how to improve game play.  The Verge and Medium have compiled a good lists of hacks, fixes, and concerns, and Lifehacker has a piece about how to conserve battery while playing. 

Since launch, Pokemon screenshots, fan reactions and commentary have dominated social media, sometimes in a delicate balance with stories of gun violence and police protests. (@_EricHu summed up the past week online with one simple image)

YouTubers The Warp Zone expressed the longing of every adult that had to work yesterday instead of trying to “catch ‘em all.” 

The game has also inspired a number of breakout Vines, including Samuel Grubbs’ nod to the classic theme song, this cautionary tale from MeechOnMarsMaple the Dog’s musical tribute, and this visual impression of an over-eager player.

Not everyone was so enthusiastic.

Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian wondered aloud if, like so many other mobile game fads of the past, “Pokemon” would see “heavy engagement and then byeeeeee.” (Digital star Jimmy Wong offered an alternate perspective, that even if the trend does die out in a few weeks, “the phenomena of all these people interacting in today’s society is incredible and uplifting.”)

Rapper El-P of Run the Jewels had a mini-tweetstorm predicting the game would eventaully lead to someone being “accidentally mained or killed off this Pokemon s—.” 

Taking screenshots of Pokemon, especially those turning up in unusual or humorous places, became the first of the game's breakout memes. Later, the trend was coming up with odd or themed names for your entire Pokemon collection, and then posting those online.

The #PokemonIRL hashtag assigns the game’s stats and powers to real-life plants and animals you can actually walk around and find. And, of course, someone imagined what Game of Thrones-style Pokemon would look like. Because, internet.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a breakout social media trend without BRANDS and organizations getting on board. (NFL Teams, in particular, got super-into this meme.) Even HARVARD UNIVERSITY and the US MARINE CORPS didn’t want to feel left out. 

Even though it’s been out for less than a week, “Pokemon Go” has already inspired a host of related products and services, many of which are developing a following after being featured on Product Hunt. 

The biggest tie-in product so far is GoChat, a location-based chat app that lets you tag Pokemon-friendly locations and discuss them - and other Psyduck-related topics - with your fellow players.

LureSquad hooks up Pokemon masters with small businesses, letting customers deploy lures in exchange for rewards. 

PokeWalk’s specialists will come pick up yor phone, walk it around a pre-arranged area, and reutnr it to you with additional Pokemon requested. (CAUTION: It has not launched yet and may be a joke.)

Is Pokemon Go Available Yet is a handle little resource that, yes, answers the title question about your native land.

Finally, PokeGone is a Chrome extension that obliterates references to the game entirely, so you no longer have to hear about it. (CAUTION: This may cause your internet to look super-empty for a while.) 
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"Sure, gimme 15 minutes in the Avid bay, I'll whip you up some of them fancy augmented reality Poke-men no problem!"

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