The Augmented Reality Revolution Is Coming

It’s now a week since Pokemon GO was released in the UK, and I’ve already worn the paws off the dog trying to chase down Jigglypuff and Pikachu.

For those of you not in the know, Pokemon GO combines Google Maps with a gaming experience where you need to collect creatures and objects to help you battle your Pokemon against other players.

The biggest difference with this game is that it is completely useless to play sitting down. You have to explore your surroundings to do anything.

It’s probably the best app for boosting your walking and Vitamin D. Without warning, you’re forced to get walking and exploring.

But wait, people don’t like walking anywhere these days, and the kids are fixated on sitting in their rooms. Well, you’d be wrong there. Kids and adults alike are downloading and utilising the game so much that it is topping app charts and crashing the servers several times per day. Not to mention the hoards of people roaming about town and cities world-wide, looking at phones – exercising and socialising with other players.

The idea for Pokemon GO came about in response to a Google April Fool’s joke where they imposed images of Pokemon onto Google Maps. Niantec the makers of Pokemon GO, once a Google company and now an independent concern, saw the joke and thought to themselves: “why not try and make it?”

Two years later, here is the game. And it’s taking the world by storm. But, what is the secret to its success?

It’s accessibility. All you need is a smartphone. There’s no bulky headset and no concern you’re going to look like an idiot in a public space. Looking at your avatar on a roughly accurate map with no obvious markings of your real location, seems to be enough to absorb you into the Pokemon GO world.

It’s this accessibility that, I believe, signals the death of the Virtual Reality dream. It’s a huge barrier to entry to expect someone to wear a headset and walk about a room (hopefully not smacking your knee into the coffee table), or a public space.

However, an easier win comes from utilising the computing power of the smartphone in your pocket, to superimpose things onto a map, or through integration with your camera (which Pokemon GO uses when collecting Pokemon) to integrate objects or notifications onto your real world. This turns the screen on your phone into a window through which to view an altered world.

So what does augmented reality and Pokemon GO mean for digital health?

Well, I think the wrong place to look for its uses is within the consulting room, or the ward. Instead, the more meaningful use cases are going to be in the patient’s world.

There is an increasing amount of good that can be done by combining the power of deep learning and the superimposing of notifications and information onto the real world.

I could be in a restaurant, holding my phone over my plate and understanding it’s nutritional information. Or, I could be following waypoints on a map to complete my required steps home. Maybe, I could be using my phone’s camera to direct me through the halls of a hospital building, following a glowing path to my desired department.

The possibilities are immense within the consumer space for augmented reality applications for the benefit of patient wellbeing and education. Anyway, I need to run, there’s a Pokestop down the road I need to visit.


James Barton

James is a freelance writer and specialist in Digital Health. He brings his perspective as a leader within a reknowned supplier to developments within the healthcare technology industry.

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