Unless you live under a rock, you’ve heard of Pokemon Go. It’s only been out for a month, everyone’s playing it and it’s already got more users than Twitter.
It’s a big win for augmented reality gaming and an overnight success. But what they’ve probably not mentioned in the media, is that this overnight success was more than twenty years in the making. A lot of new tech innovations had to be perfected before the world was ready for a AR game on this scale.
So, here’s a look back at all the decades of research and disruption that led us to this moment in AR gaming history.
John Hanke, the founder of Niantic which created the game, got his start back in the early 2000’s when he created the first massively multiplayer online (MMO) game called ‘Meridian 59’.
He eventually sold the game to 3DO, so he could focus on something else – mapping the world.
Here’s where things get interesting. Hanke wanted to link aerial photographs of the earth to GPS data and create a high-quality, usable map for the internet.
This ambition led him to Google, which wasn’t a big tech giant at the time. He was put on the Google Geo and Google Street View team between 2004 and 2010.
Over that period, Google turned into a household name and Hanke assembled a team of the best tech minds in the industry. This team would eventually spin off from Google to create a new company – Niantic Labs.
Augmented Reality has been around for a while and a lot of companies have experimented with its possibilities. Gamers are well aware of Microsoft’s plans to launch the Hololens, a headset that brings AR gaming to your living room.
HTC’s Vive combines VR and AR in a genuinely clever way.
There’s been talk about new startups coming up with innovative AR games, educational platforms, architectural tools and medical equipment. But none of it appealed to a mass audience or was easily accessible. Most of the new innovations were expected years down the line.
Pokemon GO changes that completely. It’s the first truly successful application of AR. Millions of people are using the most cutting edge technology without realizing it, which is what makes this so revolutionary.
This is perhaps the least appreciated tech that made Pokemon GO possible. Serving a game to millions of people around the world requires a lot of data management. Niantic couldn’t possibly deliver this by itself.
Thankfully, the startup team could count on it’s former employer – Google – to supply the massive cloud technology needed to power the game.
Yes, the servers are down quite often, but that’s only because the game surpassed the creator’s usage expectations.
There’s so much demand out there for the game that people are literally selling training services online.
Remember the game has only been out for four weeks. Scaling this much, so quickly, would have been completely impossible a decade ago.
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