Wanna catch ’em all, be the very best, like no one ever was, etc? Niantic Labs is currently accepting sign-ups for the first open field test of Pokemon GO!, an augmented reality game for iOS and Android mobile devices.
“Augmented reality” (AR) is a fancy term for a concept with a lot of potential applications, but in commercial usage usually boils down to “using your camera phone to see images layered atop physical space.” It can be kind of nifty and a little spooky, but when it comes to videogames, we haven’t seen it used for much besides the occasional gimmick. When’s the last time you played with your 3DS’s “AR Card” feature? Yeah.
This is where Pokemon GO! is interesting, because it combines AR with a more ad hoc form of phone-enabled play called geocaching, which is sort of like going on a treasure hunt but with a GPS. Different Pokemon will only show up in particular areas in meatspace, meaning that in order to fill out your Pokedex, you have to go out and find them. It’s about the closest a game can come to turning you into a “real” Pokemon trainer without genetically engineering these cute furry monstrosities into actual existence, so it’ll be exciting to see how the field test plays out!
(It will probably not actually look a lot like this. But you might “”””experience”””” it like this.)
You can learn more about the Pokemon GO! field test and sign up as a field tester on Niantic’s website. There are a few stipulations: iPhones need to be 5th generation or later with iOS 8 or newer; Android devices need version 4.3 or newer. If you played Niantic’s previous game, Ingress, it probably helps get you a leg up for field tester consideration — but it’s not a requirement.