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Robert Skelton
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Pokemon Go: A Gateway to the Return of Google Glass

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It is hard to avoid the daily news items regarding the new hit app Pokemon Go. Most of the stories involve how addictive the game is, and the dangers confronting teens who are not used to being outdoors.

On the business side of things, shares in Nintendo doubled in value because their brand had been reinvigorated, and then lost most of the gains when investors realised that Nintendo doesn’t actually make the game.

However, there is another huge tech company that should also be reaping the benefits in the stock market thanks to the app: Google. But not because the app’s developer Niantic was a Google project….

The next major revenue stream for Google will be ads that appear in augmented reality apps. Not ads on top of an app, as in games, but ads that reflect the location and intent of the user. Google thought that its Glass product would lead the way, with ads and organic information appearing on top of your real world view; yet the augmented reality spectacles have been on hold for quite some time now.

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Image: Edudemic

Google Glass flopped because people were weirded out by the possibility their friends were secretly filming them.

Yesterday, a friend was weirded out by a teenage neighbour who seemed to be filming her with his smartphone every time she left the house. But now that she knows he is just obsessively playing Pokemon Go, all is OK.

Pokemon Go has legitimised people walking around seeing the world through their phones, and even secretly filming people. Google’s mistake was making a serious product. If it is a silly fad, people don’t seem to mind the privacy aspects. And businesses have embraced how they can lure people to their location, even if the primary mission of the players is not to purchase real world items, but instead capture an augmented creature.


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The app will be a hit for six months or so, and then people will tire of it and we’ll be hearing about #pokemongone. Other silly augmented reality games will come and go, and smartphone users will get more and more used to the idea of seeing their surroundings with an overlay. Just like Angry Birds got the public used to playing games on phones and tablets, augmented reality apps will reach most younger adults and acclimatise them for useful apps that have real world overlays.

Meanwhile, Magic Leap will be providing similar experiences. Magic Leap is an entertainment technology which makes 3D computer-generated imagery look like part of the wearer’s surroundings by projecting digital light into their eyes. So game-changing is this technology that it has been valued at $4.5 billion without even realising a product.

With that level of investment, you would expect that most adults in affluent countries will get to experience Magic Leap at some stage.

Thanks to this two-pronged approach, practical non-gaming uses for augmented reality will finally take off, and certainly one hit app will be monetised by Google ads. Don’t be surprised if this new advertising channel takes off just like AdWords did.

A wearable AR solution could even have Google ads baked in – not unlike Google Search being built into Android phones today.

And then, ultimately, people will start wearing smart glasses instead of looking through smartphones, and Google will say “I told you so” and Google shareholders will rejoice. (Unless Microsoft beats them to the punch – the internet giant was recently awarded a patent for an “augmented reality auction platform”, which is an AdWords of the future. But that’s another story…)

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By Robert Skelton


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