The Snorlax looks so close, you can practically reach out and poke its giant belly.
Pokémon Go, the viral gaming sensation of 2016, is still here, and it’s hoping Apple can help make it big again.
Later this week, a major Pokémon Go update will come to newer iPhones and iPads running iOS 11. The automatic update will take better advantage of Apple’s mobile augmented reality capabilities, including accurate lighting and world sensing and positioning.
The end result is that Pokémon will blend in better with the real world after a player activates Apple’s new AR+ feature. The creatures will get bigger or smaller relative to how far away you are. Each Pokémon is more fully realized in 3D, so you can circle around one to get side views. Plants appear to grow from the ground.
If you’re careful, its possible to sneak right up to a Pokémon. If you get close enough without startling it, there is a capture bonus.
The plot of the game, made by Niantic, remains the same. The player is a trainer on a mission to capture a variety of Pokémon — the cartoon characters from a popular Japanese franchise.
When it was launched in July, 2016, Pokémon Go was an augmented reality innovator. It overlaid Pokémon on whatever scene a smartphone camera is pointed at. It made clever use of GPS to turn cities and towns around the world into shared Pokémon playgrounds.
It also led to some odd news stories of that year. Yelp added a filter for Pokestops. One player accidentally found a dead body. The app was banned in Iran for “security” reasons. Players had to be asked not to play at sensitive locations like Holocaust memorials. And a Russian blogger was convicted of inciting religious hatred for filming himself playing it in a church.
A year later, Apple introduced ARKit, its developer tools for creating AR apps on iPhones and iPads. The technology is impressive and looks great in early apps like one that lets you test virtual Ikea furniture around your house. But so far there hasn’t been a breakout hit like Pokémon Go.
A fresh update could rekindle our fascination with the game, and maybe more interest in AR apps in general.