Pokémon and Niantic collaborate to bring augmented pocket monsters to the real world

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Pokémon Go and its wearable Pokémon Go Plus bring the familiar pocket monsters to an augmented reality universe, helped to market with the augmented reality strengths of game developer Niantic, Inc.(Credit: Pokémon)

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Pokémon announced today that it will be bringing Pikachus, Mudkips, and Bulbasaurs to an entirely new realm never inhabited by Pokémon before: real life. In collaboration with Niantic, developer of the augmented-reality sci-fi game Ingress, players can expect Pokémon Go to use physical locales as settings for the otherwise familiar collecting, battling, and trading. Aiding players is a new device called the Pokémon Go Plus, which will augment the mobile game available for Android and iOS devices.

In a press conference, Pokémon CEO Tsunekazu Ishihara related that while the concept had been in development for two years, he had been inspired when Niantic CEO John Hanke introduced him to Ingress. Niantic recently became independent from Google after Google split off branches under its new umbrella company Alphabet. Hanke is also the co-creator of Google Earth.

Ingress uses location data for sites of merit such as statues, murals, parks, and museums to create a game similar to Capture the Flag, wherein agents move in real life to control territory.

Ishihara said that locales used in the original Pokémon game were inspired by real biomes, and thus it was a small step to envision Pokémon as something that one could find while visiting the Eiffel Tower, for example. The teaser video for the game suggested that some Pokémon would only be specific to certain locales, such as water, as in the console games.

Ingress has a strong social community based around the game, especially in Japan, where special events called anomalies pull in thousands of agents who engage in battle for the day. Ishihara described Pokémon as having a similar social community because of the necessity of seeking out other trainers with whom to swap and battle.

But the new Pokémon Go seeks to also keep trainers from always having to stare at their mobile devices, with the introduction of a new wearable called the Pokémon Go Plus. Its minimal functionality consists solely of Bluetooth LE, an LED and haptic feedback, allowing users to receive notifications of when something might be happening in the game, and maybe visually advertise their status as a Pokémon trainer.

The promotional video additionally suggests that the new game could necessitate epic battles with many agents, all taking on a legendary Pokémon together.

Nintendo is also a partner in the game, having only announced mobile development six months ago, followed by the announcement in July that there would initially be five mobile games.

Pokémon Go is scheduled to be released sometime in 2016. Below is the teaser video for the game.

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