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Pokémon GO

Pokémon GO is a mobile augmented reality (AR) version of the popular Pokémon video game for iPhone or Android systems. The game is considered a breakthrough for augmented reality gaming, as it is the first AR game to achieve widespread consumer use. The new game was developed by Niantic Inc. and runs on Google Compute and App Engine services.

Pokémon was originally developed for Nintento’s Game Boy system in 1996. The name is derived from the Japanese title for the game, Pocket Monsters. Although the first Pokémon was designed for children, a large proportion of the players of the AR adaptation are people mid-to-late twenties or older, who may have played the Game Boy version twenty-or-so years ago.

Pokémon GO uses a smartphone’s camera, gyroscope, clock and GPS and to enable a location-based augmented reality environment. The game is available for free; in-app purchases for enhancements are available through the app store. The player selects and customizes their Pokémon trainer avatar. A map of the current environment displays on the screen and a rustle of grass indicates the presence of a Pokémon; a tap of the touchscreen brings up the capture display. In AR mode, the screen displays Pokémon in the user’s real-world environment (non-AR mode uses a pre-rendered image).

There are various types of Pokémon which display based on current information; for example, bug types in a park, water types by a pond and ghost types at night. To capture the Pokémon, the user throws a Pokéball at it. Players can gain credits at checkpoints called Poké Stops, which are tied to real-world landmarks. The object of the game is to catch all 151 of the Pokémon and become a Pokémon master by defeating high-ranking trainers known as gym leaders.

In addition to raising public awareness about the entertainment and business value of augmented reality, the game has raised a number of red flags about data privacy and mobile device security. Following the launch of the Pokémon GO app, Niantic Inc. was forced to fix the iOS version of the app after a security researcher reported the game installed itself with a token that could grant full account access to his Google account and security researchers at Proofpoint spotted a counterfeit Pokémon Go app in the wild that if downloaded, would install malware and give the attacker full control of the victim’s phone.

There have also been a number of physical safety concerns raised about playing Pokémon GO. Within a week of the game’s release on July 6, 2016, players had walked into trees and other obstacles, suffered falls and twisted ankles, been involved in pedestrian and vehicle collisions, had their iPhones stolen out of their hands because they weren't paying attention in public places and were robbed at gunpoint after being lured to Poké Stop remote locations.

Watch a quick introduction to Pokémon Go from The Verge:

This was last updated in July 2016

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