People have been haphazardly chasing Pokemon around in the real-world outdoors since the summer of 2016 release of Pokémon Go. Many of the initial players have moved on, but a new update coming to the iOS version of the game might be enough to bring a few lapsed players back. Niantic Labs announced on Wednesday that an update coming to the game for iOS 11 users will take advantage of the ARKit framework to bring more immersive augmented reality to the game.
As it is now, Pokémon Go simply pastes an unsuspecting Pokémon onto your screen when you're in the right area, and the monster moves around with you. Turning on the existing enhanced mode adds a bit to the equation, but it's pretty clunky. With ARKit, Niantic is able to not only enhance the immersiveness of the game, but make the game more interesting in the process, too.
The new AR+ mode will let the game track your physical location in relation to the simulated Pokémon location, letting the on-screen monster change size in relation to your location, and to retain a fixed location as you approach it. The creatures will also interact with their environments more believably, hovering above or moving about the ground depending on what type of pokémon you're looking at.
If you approach the pokémon with AR+ mode turned on, the pokémon can become aware of your presence, allowing you to get closer for an "Expert Handler" bonus that nets you extra XP and stardust so that you can both level up and upgrade your menagerie more quickly. If you get too close, though, and the pokémon notices, it can run away, leaving you eating dust.
Perhaps most impressive is that it does all this with less battery life than the original AR mode. The original AR mode was "using the game engine in a way it was not really designed to be used," according to product manager Tatsuo Nomura. "Since [ARKit] is designed to use the camera with the gyroscope and sensors, it actually feeds in 60 frames per second with full resolution." It performs significantly better and uses less battery life, he said in an interview, as reported by TheVerge.
So what about Google's offering, ARCore? Niantic's CEO John Hanke said the team doesn't have anything to reveal just yet.
"I'll leave that for speculation at a future date," he said.
But it seems likely that the company will be able to take similar advantage of ARCore and bring the experience to Android users, as well.
The first thing I think of when I hear all this is all the people that ended up wandering into weird locations, falling off things, and getting hurt using the software, and the increased fidelity could potentially make that worse. One potential solution would be if "some company [makes] some amazing AR glasses in the future," Hanke said.
"Can't imagine who that might be," he added as Apple VP Greg Joswiak sat next to him.