Pokémon Go has exceeded 10 million downloads in the last eight days. (That’d be until July 15, anyway.) That’s more than 14 downloads a second.
Already, the app has had a major impact, if only by getting a majority of the world’s couch potatoes to drop their Xbox controllers, grab their smartphones and step foot outside of their homes.
For those of you who weren’t aware, Pokémon Go uses augmented reality: combining real world elements with virtual elements. In English, it’s the technology that allows Pikachu to appear on your dining room table through your smartphone.
There’s no doubt. Most of the Pokémon Go craze is because it’s Pokémon. However, the game has given generous amounts of exposure to the technology behind it: augmented reality.
As described above, augmented reality is the magic that transposes virtual objects into the real world. (Well, you do need a viewing device like a smartphone or a headset to see it, but that’s beside the point.) While it’s worked great for games, that isn’t its only application.
That begs the question: what other great things can augmented reality do?
Augmented reality brings us in the public the closest we’ve ever been to holograms. (Except that holograms can be seen without a device.) Most of the great things that can be done with holograms can realistically be mimicked by augmented reality. For architects, interior designers, and really, anyone who works with models, this would be a massive time saver. Instead of having to build a model of their work, they can just use upload their files onto a augmented reality viewer, and let people use their smartphones to view it.
It could also help in sales. Ever been in a store where you’re holding up a product box, wishing you could see its contents? With augmented reality, you could just scan the box, and the a virtual, to-scale model of the product would pop up in your screen. That would give people a much clearer idea of what they were buying.
And of course, there’s education. With augmented reality, publishers can embed information into the pages of its books to create interactive models for classes. This would be a blessing for biology. Who wants to look at a mere picture of the brain when you can fiddle with an interactive display? For classes like archaeology, too, this would allow students the chance to “investigate” a site (archaelogical site, not website) for themselves without having to pay for the plane ticket to get there.
I’m not so sure about this one, but augmented reality could help people who have problems driving. As in, not problems with clutching the wheel and stepping on the brakes, but problems with noticing things, like stop signs. Supposing your vehicle came with an augmented reality driving headset. While driving, it could highlight things like road signs, tell you what road you were on, and maybe even spot pedestrians and animals running around on the road. While I don’t recommend driving anyway if you can’t see those things 99% of the time by yourself, this might make the roads a safer place for everyone.
Okay. Augmented reality isn’t going to turn our world upside down. However, it can be used in a wide variety of fields, meaning that you probably will encounter it in the near future. (Well, if you have Pokémon Go, then you have already encountered it.) And it will probably make some people’s lives better. But most of its effects have yet to be seen.
However, if you want to see a few of its effects, just find someone who’s glued to their screen playing Pokémon Go and watch them walk into a lamppost.