The Rise of Augmented Reality: Lessons from Pokemon Go

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A few weeks ago our 17 year old mysteriously started taking walks in the middle of the day. He even took the dog! For some families this may be normal but for us, it is not. Our desert climate has summer temperatures hovering around 115 so an afternoon stroll is not common. In time, we discovered the catalyst for this spontaneous activity was something we have all come to know as Pokemon Go.

Pokemon Go is driven by a trend called augmented reality or AR. Those of you who follow my future-oriented twitter account (@jlsuderman) have seen many tweets related to both AR and VR (virtual reality) over the past year. In fact, VR typically gets more media attention because of things like Oculus Rift. However, if Pokemon Go is any indication, AR may have an even greater impact in the short-term.

Augmented reality is achieved when we supplement our view of the real-world environment with computer generated input such as sound, video or graphics (Wikipedia). By overlaying reality with artificial reality, we create something completely new. It is something we cannot see with the naked eye – like Pikachu hovering in front of the palm tree in my front yard. In time, we will look back on Pokemon Go as a novel and mainstreaming introduction to AR.  However, as we look ahead we should experience some more exciting and revolutionary AR changes ahead.

Here are some ways we can expect to have AR invade our space:

  • Retail: Tired of trying on items in department store fitting rooms? Why not just upload your photo and try on clothes from the comfort of your home! Many on-line eyeglass companies already offer a version of this solution.
  • Sports: I can hardly wait for the day when I can hover my mobile device over the television image of Steph Curry and have his career stats pop up.
  • Entertainment: Your 3D movie glasses will one day be layered with Google Glass-like abilities which will provide layered images to your movie experience.
  • Emergency Services : What if a fireman could wear glasses which gave him a guided tour through a smoky burning building?
  • Defense: Some US Air Force pilots already conduct their flights in a small room in a basement. As drone pilots, they make extensive use of AR to fly their unmanned planes.
  • Archaeology!? If you want to think outside the box, this article provides a great case for the use of AR to make archaeological sites come alive!

Pokemon Go has given us a fun glimpse into the emerging world of AR. However, it is far more than a tempting digital distraction. It is a harbinger of the vast changes AR will bring. In fact, I believe AR will likely be to the next generation what computers were to my generation, and what mobile technology and wifi were to my children.

There are already projects in development which will embed AR within contact lenses. This level of hands-free AR will take it to a whole new level. In fact, over time AR will become ubiquitous. But in the meantime, enjoy the fun distraction of things like Pokemon Go. Over the past 24 hours, I’ve managed to ‘research’ my way to a level 5 Pokemon Trainer. How about you?

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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email:



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