What the success of Pokemon GO tells us about the future of augmented reality

In less than 10 days of its launch, Pokemon GO has already gained more users than Tinder, and is about to surpass Twitter as well.

In fact, it currently has a higher retention rate than WhatsApp, Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook Messenger.

Image Source:  SimilarWeb

Image Source: SimilarWeb

Even though the app is currently not available in Asia, we can predict similar results.

So what’s the big deal? Is it just another fleeting fad? What’s the hype?

Whether you think Pokemon GO is a yay or nay, one thing’s for sure – it’s gives us a glimpse into the future of augmented reality. Here’s what it tell us.

1. The critical mass is really for augmented reality

Especially if it comes in the form of cute fictional creatures

There’s been a lot of talk about how AR is the future – how it would be a game-changer for science, shopping, education and the like. But none of these technologies really caught the attention of mainstream audience the way Pokemon GO did.

The secret sauce behind Pokemon GO’s success? The appeal of familiarity.

Anyone who grew up in the 90s would remember. The stories of adventure, exploration and friendships as told by the TV series, the Nintendo games, and even the collectable cards.

What the app did was to take a story that was already familiar, and apply it to the technology.

Lesson learnt: Want to market a cool swanky new technology? Don’t talk about the technology.

Make it part of a bigger narrative that is already familiar to people.

2. Mobile will be the bridge between screen and reality

Possibly the future of interface design?

Pokemon GO combines reality (your geo-location) with the game’s mobile interface.

Here’s the fun part– you can strategically place your Pokemon. And this phenomenon has taken the internet by storm.


Lesson learnt: The success of AR will ride on personalisation.

People don't expect perfectly rendered graphics during the game-play. What makes the user experience compelling is the personalisation involved.

3. Yes, there will be risks involved.

BREAKING NEWS: Teens used Pokemon GO to lure robbery victims

From GPS location privacy to data mining via Google login, many are concerned that the app will open up a sea of cyber crime.

Lesson learnt: With every new technology comes a new set of privacy concerns.

As the tech team behind the app continue to fix the trust and safety problems, it would be a good to keep tabs and see how they can be solved.

This would be a good preamble to understanding the possible pain points of AR and help the rest of us understand how to work around them.

4. It has the power to drive real-world traffic

Please buy a meal from the cafe if you want to be the very best that no one ever was.

Retailers rejoice! Pokemon GO could drive actual footfall to your stall.

Image Source:  Forbes

Image Source: Forbes

Here’s how: Your cafe or shop could very well be a pokestop. If so, you can place a lure to attract a pokemon. Once a pokemon is planted on your location, you can expect to see crowds of poke-masters around your store.

Lesson learnt: Augmented reality could open the doors for location-based marketing.

Of course, it has to be done in a way that will not turn people off.

Perhaps create a complementary pokemon drink? Or a redemption mechanic that gets customers to post a screenshot of the pokemon caught at your store?

It’s just the beginning and it’s time for retailers to get creative with the possibilities.