I started playing Pokemon Go recently, largely to irritate my kids and nephews. If you haven’t tried it, it’s worth having a go just to get a taste for the technology which allows you to overlay some simple game elements on real world images and locations.
There is no doubt that augmented reality, overlaying virtual reality on the real world will be one of the most significant developments of the coming years. I already wrote earlier this year about how quickly VR is establishing a presence in the world of learning. Augmented reality opens even more doors with the prospect of the information you need being available in the place and at the time you need it.
We invested in a new online learning system last year, using short video and principles of “light gamification” and peer to peer learning to increase participant engagement and completion rates. In Pokemon Go the overlay to real physical locations takes this much further, you play as you move and familiar objects are re-purposed with game elements so that our village notice board becomes a Pokestop and a street corner a Gym. The game (and in the future) learning environment becomes much richer and more absorbing.
I understand concerns about the risks of people not paying attention to the real world but that just illustrates how much more absorbing the augmented world is becoming. At least in this game kids are getting exercise rather than sitting motionless in front of a screen. As I write this I need another 5km of walking to hatch my next egg. Playing the game has had a measurable impact on my daily step count.
Imagine learning the history of an area live as you walk through it, or walking through a story with the actual locations around you. In learning you could find what you need to know about running the perfect meeting or operating a process from the walls of the meeting room. In restaurants you could access the menus, the locations the food came from or diners could gain points for eating the right balance of foods. If you need more exercise AR could suggest a longer walk home. Or, if you prefer, you can leave it turned off.
One evening this week I experienced around 100 people playing Pokemon go in a park in Miami. The atmosphere was friendly with all ages present and families playing together. It’s a genuinely new phenomenon.
As you can tell I am generally an optimist about the impact of technology, sure some people will abuse it but for the majority of people it can bring significant benefits. I would much rather see the augmentation of real life than its replacement by passive screen consumption which has too often been the pattern of the recent past.
I will certainly be keeping close to how AR will have an impact on learning. In the meantime I need to get on and evolve my Eevee. Enjoy.