So, Pokémon GO dropped a couple weeks ago and things have gotten...weird.
Here's the gist of it: the game taps your GPS and uses the camera on your phone to make Pokémon pop up in the world around you (through the interface of the screen).
And if you can believe it, this is actually a much, much bigger deal than all the wild headlines would have you believe. Why?
It's the first taste of the power of Augmented Reality.
This is one game, and it's mediated through your phone's screen. Right now, Magic Leap, Meta, Microsoft, Epson, Sulon, and Daqri are just a handful of the companies working to develop cutting-edge AR headsets. These headsets will take the premise behind Pokémon GO and put it directly in front of your eyeballs, completely altering what the "real" world looks like to you.
Now imagine for a moment that Pokémon GO is just one of many games, among a host of other applications available to you via any of these headsets. In a few years, you won't have to imagine anymore -- this will be reality. Hopefully you're beginning to fathom the serious ramifications of this technology's impact on the world.
Virtual reality has been getting the lion's share of headlines over the past couple years -- and it's true that advancements in content and technology in the VR-sphere have been unprecedented. But right in its sibling's shadow is AR, and as Pokémon GO proves, this technology is going to have just as much of an impact -- if not greater. They're flip sides of the same coin; where the former transports you to separate realities, the latter overlays new realities on top of your own.
One article that caught my attention recently was, "POKÉMON GO, FUNDED BY THE CIA." The claim here is that Niantic, Inc is a company formed by Keyhole, Inc, which itself received investment capital from In-Q-Tel, the venture capital firm of the CIA. And the recent revelation of the game's security risk, in which full access was given to users' Google accounts, doesn't do anything to refute this claim.
I'll withhold personal commentary about this particular headline, but the larger implications asbolutely deserve addressing. How do those of us who aren't building AR technologies share input about what we think are important ethical concerns regarding how they're built, their purpose in our lives, and the level of transparency in presenting what information they can gather?
I recently had the fortune of taking part in the ratification of the Code of Ethics on Human Augmentation at VRTO, where this was the exact topic of discussion. The code was written as a "living" document, meaning that it was designed to be something that grows with us and adapts for new understandings about the nature of augmentation.
The code in full can be found here.
This is an important moment. The ideas and habits we establish around these technologies will define what they become. What history has shown, without fail, is that we can't go back and fix faulty systems once they're locked in place.
So read the code, share it, discuss it, and start prepping for a totally new reality: the Era of Plureality.