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  • Writer's picture Ramzies aka Robert Troumbley

AR and the Evolution of Niantic's Pokémon GO

Updated: Aug 5, 2023

AR is here Have you ever wondered about the tech magic behind that game Pokémon GO? The one where Pokémon seem to exist right in your neighborhood? The magic is called Augmented Reality (AR), a part of Extended Reality (XR). This article will unfold the fascinating story of John Hanke and his company Niantic, the creators of Pokémon GO.

John Hanke: The Visionary Student Back in 1996, when the internet was still finding its way into our lives, a student named John Hanke helped create a game called 'Meridian 59'[1]. It was special because it was one of the first games where a lot of people could play together online. This venture was the start of John's journey in technology and games.

Keyhole Inc: The First 3D World Map Moving forward to the year 2000, John Hanke established a company named 'Keyhole'[2]. They had a groundbreaking idea - connecting maps with aerial photos to create a 3D map of the entire world, accessible on the internet. This fantastic innovation caught Google's attention, leading them to acquire Keyhole and transform it into what we know today as 'Google Earth'. But John's vision was even broader - he dreamed of maps that interact with people.

Birth of Niantic Labs John took another leap towards his dream in 2010 by founding Niantic Labs[3]. Named after a ship from the gold rush era, Niantic aimed to unearth hidden possibilities within our world. Niantic began its journey into AR, where the virtual world meets the real world. Ingress: A Real-World Game Niantic's first AR game, 'Ingress,' was introduced in 2012[4]. Using real-world locations as game points, Ingress allowed players to interact with their physical surroundings in a virtual context. Though not a mainstream hit, Ingress played a crucial role in showcasing the potential of AR.

Pokémon GO: Turning the Tides The real game-changer arrived in 2016 with Pokémon GO. Despite critics' skepticism, John Hanke and his team persisted, confident about the potential of AR. Upon its release, Pokémon GO shattered records and expectations alike[5]. It was not just a game; it was a phenomenon that made AR a household term.

Epilogue: The Underdog that Changed the Game Today, Niantic stands as a testament to the potential of AR, demonstrating that it's more than just a tech buzzword. It’s a tool that can bring innovation, fun, and value to our everyday experiences. Niantic's journey decodes the hype from the reality of AR, showing that success requires not just creativity but also vision, persistence, and courage. Pokémon GO's success story illuminates the path for future AR innovators. This burgeoning field needs more creative minds to improve hardware, create efficient software, and most importantly, develop AR experiences that truly enhance our lives. Whether you're a budding game developer, a passionate gamer, or someone intrigued by tech innovations, there's a place for you in the AR realm. The world of AR is vast and inviting – let's see where it takes us next!


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