Whether you’ve been playing it or not, you’ve at least seen it around you. It’s practically impossible to avoid. Millions of people from small children to adults in their 30s and 40s have had their eyes glued to Nintendo’s first mobile augmented reality game, Pokemon Go.
After being out for only a week, Pokemon Go has seen unprecedented success for augmented reality games. It already has more daily users than Twitter, and was installed on more android phones than the dating app Tinder a day after its release.
PHOTOGRAPHER: AKIO KON/BLOOMBERG
Nintendo isn’t the only company out there with their eyes on augmented reality. There are companies in Dallas with big plans for the technology as well, and they see Pokemon Go as just the beginning.
For the sake of clarification, augmented reality refers to the placement of a superimposed digital image over the real-world environment. For example, seeing a Pikachu hopping on your kitchen table in Pokemon Go from your phone screen. But Kevin Hart, the CEO of Dallas-based Aireal, an augmented reality startup, has bigger plans for the technology.
“What we’re really excited about, and what we’ve preached for several years now that the future of augmented reality has in store, is that we want to use your device as an enabler of new experiences in your existing environment as opposed to a distraction,” Hart told the Dallas Business Journal. “And so by having people explore their existing environment and use their mobile device to do that, that’s one of the major behavior changes that we needed to be worked on in order for our company to be successful.”
Aireal’s main focus is on geospatial augmented reality, which as opposed to the augmented reality used in Pokemon Go, allows the user to walk around the digitally projected image. In Pokemon Go, the Pokemon is simply superimposed to the environment from your phone screen, while geospatial AR allows the user to walk around the projected image and see it from various angles. Aireal plans to use this technology to embed digital content into the real-world environment, allowing for a myriad of uses for businesses. They’ve already done something similar to this in a partnership with Discovery.
“We patented the ability to sell volumetric digital real estate,” Hart said. “It’s like the domain name of the real world. Eventually we’re going to have on our platform where you can buy this volumetric air space to place your own content within it for others to experience. The cool thing about that is it can be like an environmental internet. Instead of typing in a request and searching for something, you’re actually exploring your environment, getting up and being active just like Pokemon Go, but you’re exploring your environment for rewarding experiences and it’s constantly disrupting the pattern of the environment that you’re already familiar with.”
Hart said Aireal is currently working on licensing the technology with multiple partners to ensure that upon release there will be enough content that anyone around the world can have a rewarding experience.
Steve Deitz, CEO of Dallas-based advertising agency 900lbs of Creative, also sees a massive amount of potential for the implementation of augmented reality technology.
“There’s no doubt about it that from a marketing standpoint it’s going to become more popular,” Deitz said. “The history of augmented reality, we look at some of it as gimmicky. These days it’s so much more interactive and we have stronger processing power. There will be more and more we can do with that and tablets as well. There’s no doubt we’ll see more augmented reality applied in the business world, marketing world, and for training and education.”
Before the release of Pokemon Go, there was a great deal of buzz surrounding a different but similar technology, virtual reality. The difference between augmented and virtual is that virtual is completely computer generated and requires a headset to be viewed. Despite this technology being implemented by video games and amusement parks, AR might prove to have more lasting value. A report was recently published showing that by 2020, AR may hit $90 billion in revenue, while VR is only forecasted to reach $30 billion.
“It’s an exciting time and it’s a challenging time as we all try to embrace emerging technology and organizations are trying to apply it in different and unique ways and I think we’ve got to give a thumbs up to Nintendo for just making a really loud noise,” Deitz said. “It’s amazing.”