I must say I was taken by surprise like everyone at the virality and ubiquity of Pokémon Go. Unless you have been living under a rock for the last few weeks, Pokémon Go, is the new breakthrough viral game which crossed Tinder (Yes, Tinder!, I don’t know why is that so funny) in daily active users. For people what’s so special about Pokémon Go, let me explain in a few sentences. Pokémon Go, of course features Pokémon characters that appear in real life environs that users can capture and train etc, the usual Pokémon stuff. What sets it apart is that it shows the game player on a 3D map surface based on their GPS location and uses landmarks, monuments etc as places to find Pokémons, when you encounter a Pokémon, you will be transported into an augmented reality (AR) experience that will turn on your camera and puts the characters on the real life surfaces so it's pretty fun and exciting to play. The landmarks and poke stops are populated in the game on real time maps, and these are largely from geotagged photos from the game publisher Niantic’s previous game Ingress, which had the same premise.
Before I go on further, a bit of background about me: I am a startup founder, my company is LizenUp. We are building a platform to crowdsource audio stories about physical places, objects without having to use a GPS (GPS is limited to outdoors, not so good indoors and not portable). We are basing our platform on an under-utilized technology that is present in most of the smartphones: NFC. Using specially made NFC audio tags (yes, we sell those) that can be attached to any surface, anyone can record and share audio using our…, you guessed it, app. These tags can be placed on monuments, landmarks, informational plaques, toys, albums, photographs, artwork, memorabilia, wherever there’s an interesting story to capture and preserve. Imagine placing your smartphone on a tag (ala Android Pay or Apple Pay) and listening to the story of that object or monument. Of Course, if the tag is placed on an outdoor monument, any passerby can obviously see that there’s a story there and listen to it, record his/her own story. As they listen/record, they earn points that can be exchanged for real rewards. If the tag is placed on a toy or a picture frame that you store in your house or send as a gift, the people who can access is limited; it’s a matter of context. So, if the object is moved, the stories move along with it, so, no GPS.
One of the cornerstones in our platform is the use of stickable audio tags that act as passive beacons, bringing a physical product to fruition is hard but this also allows us to address any physical object at a micro level within inches, and best of all unlike other beacons they don’t use battery or rely on GPS.
I envision these tags popping up everywhere and become beacon for people to invite them to listen to stories and make their own stories, sort of like a twist on geocaching. I also envision a future where these stories evolve from audio to full fledged AR stories, you’ll notice that I skipped video and VR, because in the VR vs. AR battle, I stand on the side of AR.
Now, why do I love Pokémon Go?
One of the first thing as a startup founder I need to do to is validate some of the major assumptions that we made:
People are (still) interested in getting up and walking around and looking at stuff in the physical world
People are interested in preserving/sharing stories
Museums/Galleries/Govt. authorities encourage people to listen to and share stories by placing audio tags.
With Pokémon Go’s phenomenal success, my #1 assumption is validated; of course, it’s not just gamification that made it happen, but the familiar brand of Pokémon that made it go viral, because the previous incarnation of the same concept Ingress wasn’t a success in the same league. This gives me great hope for my company LizenUp, but it still remains to be seen whether we will be successful, nevertheless as a parent of kids who are into video games, I am glad that there’s a game which captures their imagination AND makes them go out and explore, and it also makes it easy for us to pitch by referring to Pokémon Go to make people understand and see the potential in LizenUp.
OK, Why do I resent Pokémon Go?
I admit it, it’s mostly jealousy; the fundamental premise of marrying physical location to an activity (in this case, catching Pokémons) is one of LizenUp’s main ingredients, which is now upended by Pokémon Go and I feel cheated :), you know that ‘Shit, they beat us to it’ feeling.
On a serious note, apart from catching Pokémons the game is not that good and it's a drain on your phone’s battery and data.
So, where are we now?
LizenUp app’s early releases are available in Apple Appstore and Google Play Store. We are selling tags to individuals and businesses such as museums, galleries, art shows. We are hard at work at improving the app and the platform. If you are interested in recording, preserving, sharing stories about your favorite objects or places, visit us at http://lizenup.com, get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org, download our app and help us spread this, instead of just playing games, let’s do some good.