Pokemon GO art director says AR increases human interactions: Yonhap

By Park Sae-jin Posted : November 16, 2016, 08:30 Updated : November 16, 2016, 08:30

[Aju News DB]

Dennis Hwang, master art director of Niantic Labs, revealed his belief in the bright side of up-and-coming augmented reality (AR) content, including the increase of human interactions and its health benefits.

The US director of Korean descent said AR games such as Pokemon GO, Ingress and FieldTrip by Niantic Labs can influence the real-world behavior of users in positive ways.

"We took GPS technology and made a joint project with Pokemon, which is an IP with a long history," Hwang said in his keynote speech on the opening day of "Next Content Conference 2016 (NCC)" at the COEX convention center in southeastern Seoul.

"We thought it would be fun to come up with ideas about AR, and after we did, the outcome was simply incredible."

AR, sometimes referred to as mediated reality, is a computing technology that provides users with a direct or indirect view of computer-generated sound, video, computer-generated graphics or a combination of all three that is tied to a specific location using GPS data or visible markers. In AR games like Pokemon GO, players are encouraged to cover large physical distances searching for conjured characters and objects made out of computer graphics that look like they exist in the real world when viewed on a player's phone.

The game uses map data from Google's mapping service, but Google does not have precise mapping data for Korea due to restrictions set in place by a South Korean government citing security concerns.

Consequently, the Pokemon GO app cannot operate on most of the Korean Peninsula. But word has spread that the game works in Sokcho, so people across South Korea have been flocking to the east coast city to join in on the global Pokemon fever.

"We were pleasantly surprised at the stories -- and there are lots of them -- that many Pokemon GO users suffering from depression and social phobias saw their symptoms grow gradually milder," Hwang said.

"They say Pokemon GO players get to naturally broach conversations, like asking and talking about the Pokemons they have captured," he continued.

Available in more than 130 countries around the world, Pokemon Go has become so popular that it has been downloaded 500 million times. And players of this animation-based AR game have collectively walked over 4.6 billion kilometers while playing.

According to a recent collaborative study between Microsoft and Stanford, Pokemon GO will be able to prolong the lifespans of its 25 million U.S. users by a collective 2.8 million years if it keeps them active at their present pace.

"That's how we got to realize that AR is a future form of content that can make our society a better place," Hwang said.

Niantic Labs launched in 2011 within Google and became an independent company in 2015. Some of its investors include Nintendo, The Pokemon Company and Google.

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