ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Go Pokémon Go!

By Dennis Anderson, Robert Niewiadomski

Go Pokémon Go!

It is quite staggering how quickly Pokémania is sweeping across the country. Even though the current formula of the game is incredibly simple, it does something astonishing—as people chase virtual monsters, they have to engage in physical movement, searching, and exploration. Businesses, tourist attractions, and even churches became PokéStops that attract influx of gamers. No doubt the fad will be followed by similar location-based augmented reality games and apps. Augmented reality (AR) will dominate not only in the realm of entertainments but also marketing, shopping, exercise, and most importantly, education. Pokémon Go is an AR app integrating digital interaction with your geolocation. Recently, AR has become increasingly  sophisticated  thanks to unprecedented progress in smartphones, advanced tracking devices, sensory detection devices, GPS, and cameras. It is basically an overlaid information on top of our real-world experience.

Numerous articles related to Pokémon Go have been trending in social media for weeks. Many of them focus on the addictive nature of the game. Even though Pokémon Go seems to be particularly addictive, the same could be said about most games to varying degree like Candy Crush. The more interesting aspect of Pokémania lies in its educational potential. Obviously, interactive educational apps in schools are old news. Schools have been frequently flooded with stream of new programs design to make learning math, English, or social studies more interesting and engaging. Some of these programs are more successful than others.

Kathy Hirsh-Pasek and Roberta Michnick Golinkoff compare the first wave of educational apps to the Wild West. As they insightfully note, “Adventurous settlers (call them developers) of the first wave of education apps rushed to get apps to market hoping to strike gold. The modus operandi—take whatever existed already in books and games in the non-digital world and plop it into the most current and popular digital device. The result? Apps and e-books never really used the full potential of the digital world to help children reach beyond the covers and screens or to expand the possibilities of an educationally rich world.” The infusion of AR might change that. Pokémon Go has potential to be transformative in changing the way the students learn as they interact with mobile computers or smartphones. How is AR doing it? The AR games capture the uniqueness of digital opportunity that blends the world on the screen of the smartphone with the real world and brings strategy, communication, energy, joy and playfulness into learning.

It’s just a matter of time before Pokémon Go’s successor will emerge and eventually take us through the streets of New York City so we can experience life in 17th century New Amsterdam. Imagine a biology lesson where the power of AR is harnessed to collaboratively explore plants and animals and learning about evolution. Imagine learning/playing geometry by interacting with architectural structures in your child’s neighborhood. Imagine a homework that doesn’t feel like burdensome assignments, but rather like an addictive game. The process has already begun. A Japanese newspaper employed AR to make the arduous task of text comprehension more child-friendly. All students have to do is to scan a tagged article with a smartphone to reveal a more digestible version. With the seamless bridging of  the online and offline worlds, in and off class experiences, the possibilities are endless.

AR gaming could become a valuable pedagogical tool for modern learning since it doesn’t just “morph content from non-digital forms onto a digital platform. It asks how can we harness the full potential of digital delivery.” The key point is AR has enormous potential to revolutionize the future of educational in digital age. It will do it by fostering more collaborative, and yet more individualized, problem solving, innovation, and application of critical thinking skills to real-life situations. This is an exciting time to be in the educational app development space particularly in AR.

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