Beyond Pokémon: An Augmented Reality Roundup

By Alvin Mak

AR has secretly penetrated the world beyond mobile gaming and is looking to take more.

The world was shaken to its core when Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Company released Pokémon Go. For those summer months of 2016, this game was the world’s obsession. Everyone was outside in search of randomly-spawning Pokémon. 

Pokémon Go did something very different from other mobile games at the time—it used augmented reality (AR). The small, fantastical creatures are rendered into real-life environments by the app and appear almost as if they are really there in the flesh. 

That summer, Pokémon was able to rack up US$832 million from this mobile gaming phenomenon. Additionally, the app was credited with adding 144 billion steps to US physical activity numbers in 2016. 

Pokémon Go sparked the ongoing leap into AR technologies we’re still witnessing today. In 2017, the AR/VR industry was valued at a whopping $11.35 billion, with estimates expecting that same number to reach a staggering $570 billion by 2025. Evidence of this growth has already started to surface as this technology gradually penetrates all facets of our lives. 

Mobile Gaming

The most tangible impact of AR is in mobile gaming experiences. Although there is a common misconception that Pokémon Go fell off the radar after its groundbreaking launch in 2016, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

The Niantic-developed AR game recently broke the record gross revenue originally set in 2016—clocking in an even more mind-boggling $900 million in 2019. The game has now amassed more than $3.1 billion till date, and has gained a firm foothold as the fourth highest earning mobile game. 

Its successes in 2019 are due mostly to its addition of “Team Rocket”—franchise antagonists—which added a whole new dimension of Pokémon battles and gameplay. 

More recently, Landlord Go, another AR city-roaming mobile game, launched globally. The game is a unique mix between Pokémon Go and the famous board game Monopoly. 

According to the developers, Reality Games, Landlord Go “allow[s] players to buy, sell, and collect rent on some of the world’s most famous buildings and landmarks.” The game creates a virtual marketplace for properties using real landmarks and buildings. 

Reality Games has compiled data for each of its half a billion properties across the world, leveraging data and insights from analytics company BigDots to create a unique trading experience for each property. 

The game claims to already have more than 90,000 players roaming the streets of London, interacting with over 460,000 individual properties. 

AR will undoubtedly continue merging our physical and virtual worlds, subsequently changing what it means to play a mobile game. 

Virtual Events

On July 21, smartphone company OnePlus released its newest addition to the product lineup—the OnePlus Nord. However, what’s interesting about this phone launch was its delivery through AR. 

OnePlus was the first company to launch a smartphone via an AR broadcast. Not only were viewers able to experience the launch from the safety of their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, they also experienced a level of remote interactivity never seen before at a launch event. 

The AR graphics employed allowed viewers to practically hold the phone in their hands. The company provided viewers with a cardboard model onto which its AR program would render a model of the OnePlus Nord phone. As a result, viewers were able to ‘demo’ the phone in their hands from the comfort of their homes. 

Additionally, OnePlus displayed the inner-workings of this new release with AR cross sections of the product. Rather than relying on simple line drawings or cartoon-esque representations of the components, as we often saw in 2016, OnePlus was able to display state-of-the-art detailed renderings of the components of the OnePlus Nord, all in AR. 

The event also featured a price guessing segment, where viewers had the opportunity to guess the price of the new OnePlus Nord. This represented a commitment towards real-time AR audience interaction, something that could completely reinvent interpersonal interaction. 

Unbox Therapy, partner of the event and also a YouTube tech guru, said at the event, “[AR] gives you a very intimate interaction with a smartphone you don’t have yet. [This] could be the start of something different, something new, something futuristic.”

While OnePlus’ launch event wasn’t the first instance in which virtual or augmented reality have been employed, its success could be an indication of more events like this to come. Not only did OnePlus make efficient use of pioneering technology, it also included and involved thousands of fans around the world who would otherwise have been watching a regular livestream.

Healthcare

The world of medicine is also being transformed by AR, with Complete Anatomy ‘21 as one among variou. The app not only offers AR renders of full anatomical models of human bodies, but also over 17,000 interactive biological structures and 22 microscopic models. Most impressive of all, the app features an interactive  live beating heart model

Complete Anatomy ‘21 adds yet another tool to the arsenal of medical professionals, who now have access to 1,500 more videos on clinical processes. Multiple users can also interact with the same model at once, potentially changing the classroom experience for medical students. 

Education

GeoGebra AR was released in 2017 as an extension of GeoGebra’s popular mathematical graphing service. GeoGebra originally dominated classrooms all over the world by reinventing mathematical modeling in educational settings; the startup created a graphing calculator sporting a UI that was miles ahead of traditional scientific graphic calculators. Ultimately, GeoGebra amassed an impressive list of accolades, and attracted over a million users around the world

With GeoGebra AR, the company has once again transformed the world of mathematical modelling. Students are now able to use the mobile app to effortlessly visualize 3D projections of functions. With graphs projected onto a three-dimensional plane via AR, this technology has opened the door to previously unachievable interactivity. Students, especially visual learners, have gained another tool to make mathematical understanding more frictionless. 

Owing to this unique application of AR, the app has thus repeatedly appeared on multiple Internet lists of noteworthy AR apps. The company has ambitions to roll out collaborative-work capabilities in future editions of GeoGebra AR, adding another tool to the rapidly-growing repository of education solutions. 

In astronomy, Star Chart has also taken advantage of AR technology. Ranked #99 overall for education in the App Store, the app is an open invitation to the cosmos. Star Chart displays all astronomical bodies that are visible from a user’s geographic position, giving its over 20 million users the ability to simply tilt their phones to navigate this landscape. 

On top of this, Star Chart provides information on each of its 120,000 stars, 88 constellations, and 110 deep-sky landmarks simply with a tap of the screen. It also allows users to time-shift up to 10,000 years, and look at the sky from the past or in the future. Users can easily get lost in the app for hours on end. 

Augmented reality has grown beyond its roots in training, gaming, and other early applications, and is transforming even industries as complex and technical as healthcare through the work of companies like Complete Anatomy ‘21

With these developments, it’s clear that AR certainly did not wither away after the hype of Pokémon Go seemingly wore off. In fact, it’s penetrating several key industries and will likely continue to do so—and is already enacting sweeping change in the worlds of gaming, education and human interaction. Cliche though it may be to say, the nature of our reality may soon be unthinkable without augmentation. 

Header image by JOSHUA COLEMAN on Unsplash

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