If you’re still playing Pokémon GO you may have turned off AR mode to make things a little less awkward. But now, you may want to turn it back on.
December has been a good month for Pokémon GO players. The game has added 50 new Pokémon that originally appeared in the Hoenn region, new weather dynamics and visuals, battle parties, and more. In fact, last Friday, the legendary Pokémon Groudon started appearing in Raid Battles. While the game can still be a bit slow and buggy, Niantic and The Pokémon Company have continued to improve the game and add new features regularly.
Now, Niantic Labs—the developer behind the popular pocket monster game and other AR (augmented reality) games such as Ingress—has just announced AR+ for the iOS version of the app. AR+ will be available in an update later this week. The new update will utilize iOS 11’s ARKit framework to vastly improve the game’s AR mechanics, providing a more immersive experience. Players will be able to see Pokémon as they would look in the real world, and will even be able to “sneak up” on Pokémon to catch them.
ARKit is a new framework introduced in iOS 11 that provides developers with positional tracking so that virtual objects can be added to the real world. Objects utilizing ARKit are able to blend with the environment around them. These virtual objects can be seen by using Augmented Reality which utilizes a display and a camera to make digital objects come to life.
ARKit takes advantage of Visual Inertial Odometry (VIO) which uses the device’s camera in correlation with Core Motion data to provide accurate real-world tracking. This eliminates the need for calibration and helps the device sense how it moves within a space.
ARKit can detect horizontal surfaces such as the ground, a floor, or a tabletop and can track points on these surfaces. This makes placing and tracking digital objects easy. In addition, ARKit is capable of determining a room’s lighting to provide accurate lighting and shading to digital objects.
Some developers have also used ARKit’s tracking abilities to dynamically increase or decrease the volume of sounds in relation to an object. In other words, digital objects that emit sound will be louder or quieter depending on how close the user is in relation to it.
With the introduction of AR+, Pokémon will now appear in an exact spot within the real world when AR mode is enabled. AR+ will be available on iPhone 6s and newer running iOS 11 or above.
Before ARKit support, Pokémon would often drift around as the device moved and usually looked like an overlay rather than a real world object. Now that Pokémon are able to be rendered in a more fixed location, players will be able to move around them and get up close. This new experience will give players a feel for how these monsters might appear in the real world. In fact, Niantic says Pokémon will be shown actual size, so larger Pokémon such as Onix will be towering above players.
Pokémon in the latest update just got a little smarter. Getting too close to a Pokémon may even cause it to flee. Niantic refers to this new in-game dynamic as “awareness.”
If a player is able to “sneak up” close enough and catch a Pokémon, they will be rewarded with an “Expert Handler” bonus. This bonus increases the amount of XP and Stardust earned for catching the Pokémon. Sneaking up close enough also improves a player’s chance of getting a great or an excellent throw. Additionally, players will now see an awareness meter on the display; if it fills up, the Pokémon they are attempting to catch will run away.
If a Pokémon runs away you will be able to find it in “the tall grass.” For players who have never played the original handheld games, this is a reference to the glory days. In older Pokémon games, Pokémon could be found by walking around in the tall grass. In Pokémon GO, you will be able to find Pokémon that run off by tapping on nearby tall grass. This may result in a second chance at catching the Pokémon.
Niantic is calling this the first step in making the game’s AR features “even more awesome,” and encourages players to remain aware of their surroundings while playing and take awesome AR+ photos to share with the community. If this is only the beginning, AR gaming is about to get even better.
Pokémon GO now has over 300 Pokémon to catch and battle, better AR features, and even more is rumored to be coming down the pipe. Some features that players are still waiting for include trading, peer-to-peer battles, and breeding. Personally, I’d like to see Pokémon Centers and NPCs (non-playable characters) added to the game.
A Pokémon GO Christmas event featuring the Jhoto-region Pokémon Delibird is expected soon. It may include Pikachus wearing Santa hats, more Stantler, and possibly the addition of more generation-three Pokémon.
If you’re a fan of Pokémon, there’s never been a better time to dust off your sneakers and venture into the tall grass. Good luck, trainers!