Pokemon Go Revelation

AR applications on smart phones are not new, however there’s no app like Pokemon Go, Which has set off a global mania in such short time. And there’re all sorts of tales about the game, true of false. For example, young people fell from a cliff in the process of catching Pokemon; Major high way accident due to people catching Pikachu on the way; And people catching Pokemon in Arlington National Cemetery, rousing public outrage.

Yeah, Pokemon Go is a milestone game, for through it revelations start to reveal to us that to embrace a new era, we need to prepare ourselves.

Total Anarchy Status Now

Now you can virtually catch Pokemon everywhere, in the middle of a highway, in a national museum, even in other people’s private domain. And people in charge of those places could do nothing except persuade the Pokemon catchers to show some respect and go away. I feel something is wrong by instinct.

To take a close analogy, that today you can’t drive your car to any public open space, for example you can’t drive on the sidewalk, or on the lawn of a roadside park. Hundreds of years ago, when the first car was invented, its owner must feel comfortable to drive it to the said places, you can imagine people fled this unknown monster in great turmoil. For at that time, there was no comprehension of what impact cars would make to human society, and authorities hadn’t yet caught up with appropriate laws.

This seems to be impotent, it’s pretty much the same as erecting a sign out of my house that says “This is my home, please don’t break in.”

AR Products Need Safety Standards

There are already many reports of people killed while playing the game, by cars or falling.

The game play depends on GPS and Google Map. Currently the GPS civilian band is able to locate you within a 25 meters margin of error, it could only roughly tell you’re on which portion of a street. Of course with this degree of precision, the system can’t judge where the border is between road and sidewalk, thus it couldn’t make out the line between life and death.

So it’s no surprise to learn the casualty, if a product which meets no safety standards at all is released to a nation with massive population. Some people complain that we can’t play Pokemon Go in China, but it might be a blessing. I can predict, if the current Pokemon game is introduced to China with no safety standard imposed to it, and without major overhaul to itself, casualty is certainty, the only matter is numbers.

Some people would argue that I’m making a fuss, they would ask, what human activity doesn’t involve casualties? I know that building skyscrapers, mining coals, even boarding buses involve casualties large or small, it’s sad fact that our society must be built upon some body’s sacrifices. But dying for playing video games is just too worthless, we have much and much more beautiful things to embrace in life than petty games.

Of no doubt it would be far from enough of simply posting a warning message in the loading screen:

It’s not hard to foresee that in the near future, more and more strict standards would be imposed to AR products, just like cars, electric appliances and anything else.

There is an example worthy of notice, that Nintendo’s consoles always use DC power input, to prevent electrocution, which indicates Nintendo executes more strict safety standards than other console makers. I believe in the future safety standards for AR products would take note of similar details.

AR Product Publishers Need to Be Regulated

The use of AR products could potentially disrupt social order. For example, the sidewalk outside of a subway station, its primary purpose is for commuters to stream through. What if you’re flirting with a comely virtual girl there during rush hour ?

And AR publishers could easily manipulate people’s behaviors, for example they can place some rare Pokemons outside of a newly opened shopping mall, or even use some sexy virtual girls to lure you to some secret hideouts.

And to my paranoid head, the most horrifying feature is AR program’s ability to start mass gathering. It could do so with greater facility than any other tools. For example dropping virtual coins on the road, just like luring a chick to some place by dropping grain. And when a great crowd is built up, it could be exploited for many malicious purposes. For example, bombing, start a coup amidst the chaos.

So for concern of social order and security, I can envision that in the near future, AR publishers need to first submit the product to authorities for examination. They would list all the capacities of the product, and comply with operation rules of what they could do and not. And AR products get out of the line would be quickly nipped in the bud.

AR Space Needs Administration

What we live in is a 3 dimensional space, if you want to do certain things with in this space, you need first to obtain corresponding rights. For example if you want to build a house, you need the surface right for the land; And if you want to mine gas below, you need the deep soil right for the land. With the introduction of AR, the situation becomes much more complicated, the world virtually is made into a N dimensional space. I believe there will be an AR Space Right. Otherwise AR publishers would feel free to add a juicy signboard on top of White House, or populate the central park with virtual salesmen, or post huge commercials on every major building of Manhattan gratis –it would be terrible, this is called ANARCHY!

It’s a complicated matter, I can’t imagine the AR space would be administrated in what way. Perhaps something like the management of domain names today.

Every breakthrough of technology brings us double edged sword, with it we can do good and evil. And the new stuff could be easily invented, but it would take much longer for us to come up with full regulations for it. Only with good administration, new technologies could serve our best interests, rather than bring us nightmares.

And by the end, I need to thank my good friend DongTong, an equally paranoid fellow, for providing many good points in the article!

I would post regularly — one article every two weeks, about game and art production.

See my previous articles here…

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