Did Lenovo and Google Tango just hit an AR jackpot with this Pokémon Go phenomenon?
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, you're probably well aware of the sensation that is Pokémon Go. I've been too busy to try it for any extended period, but knowing the basic idea of how it works (it's much like Ingress), we can't help but think Lenovo's upcoming Tango-enabled Phab2 Pro smartphone is going to be the perfect meeting of hardware and global software phenomenon.
On one side of the fence, we have Pokémon Go, where the killer part of the game involves traveling to real-world spots, where you hold your smartphone up to view digital characters layered on top of a live camera view of your surroundings. You also have the fact that it quickly became such a massive phenomenon that most tech and gaming blogs have assigned entire teams of writers to cover nothing but.
On the other side of the fence, you have the Lenovo Phab2 Pro, a smartphone that uses Google-made tech (Tango) to quickly map your surroundings. After doing so, you can hold your phone up to see digital characters interacting with those surroundings. It even has a gigantic display to make the characters that much easier to spy.
The enormous difference between this and any other smartphone is that (with proper developer support) those characters won't bump into walls, walk through any objects or do anything else that looks unnatural. The unreal character knows its real environment.
Put the two together and you have an amped-up version of Pokémon Go, where the monsters you're chasing know their environments. If people walk in front of the monsters, the people stay in the foreground; if the people walk behind them, the people go in the background. If there's a table in the middle of the room, the monster will walk around it instead of through it, and they'll also move around lampposts, signs or any other obstacles.
You get the idea ...
When Lenovo announced the Phab2 Pro, we thought it was an incredibly bold phone with a somewhat niche focus: things like seeing how a new couch will look in your living room, measuring objects from distance or playing with virtual pets. After Pokémon Go exploded and took over the world this week, though, this phone suddenly has the potential to go from niche to the hottest property around.
Of course this would require developer support from Pokémon Go creators Nintendo and Niantic, Inc. It isn't a stretch to imagine such a partnership, with a common connection: Until last year, Niantic was a company living under the Google umbrella (then known as Niantic Labs), and Google also creates the Tango tech that makes this AR mapping possible inside the Phab2 Pro. Surely the lines of communication have already been open on this, no?
We reached out to Lenovo, Nintendo and Niantic: Lenovo politely declined to comment, and we're still waiting to hear back from the other two. Of course we'll update this post if we hear anything.
It's all speculation at this point – take it as you will – but it only takes a little imagination to see how the stage is set for the Phab2 Pro to become something much bigger than most of us originally thought. It all hinges on two projects with a common bond coming together, along with a tech and gaming media that's eager to shotgun-blast any news related to Pokémon Go to the front of the queue. That's a formula for massive success, provided those big "if"s check out.
For a refresher, you can check out our hands-on with Lenovo's Phab2 Pro smartphone.