The game Pokemon Go has made a big splash. Wildly popular, it has attracted millions of users. If you listen to the laments of some, you would think that the zombie apocalypse has occurred. “They just mindlessly wander around staring at their phones!” I have watched lone individuals and groups scour the campus where I work trying to find creatures available in the game. Not that constantly staring at one’s phone is a new phenomenon, but this game takes it to a new level.
It is a game on your smartphone that blends the real world with a virtual world. We refer to this blending as augmented reality. There have been accidents due to individuals being distracted by the game. It has also caused intrusions on places such as cemeteries that should be respected and made off limits to the game. However, it has gotten people out and about and visiting places they normally wouldn’t. Parks of all kind have seen a dramatic increase in visitation. There are also claims that the getting out and social interactions related to the game have positive mental benefits.
I am not completely settled in my mind how I feel about the game. As you can see, it has a number of pros and cons. I should also point out that just because someone visited a place doesn’t mean they connected to it. Yet, the “Go” part of the game means you can’t just sit at home all of the time.
With all of this said, one remaining point is very important. Augmented reality is here to stay. When interest wains in Pokemon Go, and it will, something else will take it’s place. For a long while I have thought that this technology could be a fantastic tool to bring heritage interpretation to life. Imagine if you were to apply this kind of tech to your site. What would it look like?