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Don't scoff at Pokemon Go

Speed read
  • Pokemon Go is all the rage, and is introducing a new era in digital design.
  • Data scientists are encouraged to enhance their projects with multiple layers.
  • Augmented reality endows public resources with additional educational opportunites.

Pokemon Go can teach us some valuable lessons, says Colter Wehmeier.

Wehmeier is an architecture graduate from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and an alum from the Students Pushing Innovation (SPIN) intern program at National Center for Supercomputing Application (NCSA).

Spindoctor. Pokemon Go is helping Colter Wehmeier make interactive models of a city in Cyprus.

For one, it challenges us to rethink what can be done with smartphones to enhance experiences data scientists are trying to impart. Other benefits Wehmeier sees are the added socialization and physical activity brought with augmented reality.

Adding multiple layers enhances the visualization — but the more important aspect illustrated by Pokemon Go, Wehmeier maintains, is that your physical body becomes an avatar. Wehmeier insists this is a much better way of interacting with these systems.

Outstanding in her field

Elizabeth Folta agrees with Wehmeier.

Folta, assistant professor at the State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry (SUNY-ESF), has been working with New York State Parks and Historic Sites to develop augmented reality games for the public to use when visiting Green Lakes or Clark Reservation state parks in New York.

Seeing the forest for the trees. ESF researchers have designed an 'alternate reality game' that lets you pretend to be a biologist or park ranger on the hunt for 'alien species' (invasive species) that are colonizing the park where they don't belong. Courtesy ESF.

The first game was called Conservation Adventure, and was primarily used with school and science groups in the city of Syracuse. Students and campers would go to the park and play the game.

The newest game is called Interstellar Intruders, and focuses on invasive species.

Visitors can play solo or in a group, but however they play it, the game requires them to run around. To play, they identify plant species not indigenous to the region in one of three roles: Park ranger, biologist, or graduate researcher.

What's more, the game can be played without supervision, expanding the reach of the lone park educator assigned to the 20 New York state parks.

So Pokemon Go may be a fad, but these scientists agree augmented reality is here to stay. 

Want to read more about the value of augmented reality? Check out our feature on Perceptoscope, a way to imbue sightseeing with historical perspective.

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