Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gotta Catch Some of 'Em

   Because you just can't catch 'em all!

   I guess I can't get around having to comment on Pokemon Go.

   If you have children, or if you were, born in the 90's through the 00's then you know all about Pokemon.  It used to be about the cards, action figures and, of course, the video games.  Remember the Game Boys, game cartridges and all the sounds and music?!

   With Pokemon Go, the game has gone from sometimes mobile to really mobile.  And from sometimes social to a social phenomenon.

   It's not farfetch'd!
   For some reason, many adults seem to dislike this game, siting issues like inattention to surroundings, time spent playing, etc.  I think the game is great!  Here are my top reasons why (major caveat... I have not actually played the game!  These are my observations as a technology and security professional and as a parent):
  • It gets kids out of the house - many people need a little Vitamin D.  One of the biggest complaints about gaming and computers for kids is that they don't get outside enough.
  • It gets kids moving - #exercise.  While there have been some attempts at game-ifying exercise, such as Wii Fit, it never really caught on.  Pokemon Go gets people outdoors and moving around.  In fact, part of the game is logging lots of steps.
  • It's for "kids" of all ages - parents can play along with their kids!  You don't have to play, but at the very least it's a great opportunity to be involved.
  • It's really social - you may remember that, back in the day, players could connect two Gameboys so two people could battle.  Now people are connecting IRL (In Real Life) as they hike trails, walk through cities or congregate at parks or other PokeStops.
  • It's another step toward acceptance of Augmented Reality.  Unlike Virtual Reality, in which one is entirely immersed in a manufactured visual scene, Augmented Reality overlays images, text or other information on top of what you are actually looking at.
   As an aside, I think AR is awesome and is one of the next big frontiers.  There are so many opportunities for AR to be an incredibly useful part of our lives.  Some cool current applications include historical site or "treasure hunt" map overlays, visualizing home improvements, or even that new tattoo.  In the future we can expect to see things like realtime digital assistants (that remind us of information we knew about someone, but at the moment we run into them somewhere), AR-assisted repairs - overlaying a schematic or repair instructions over the actual object, or even AR-assisted surgery.

   Now,  all this is not without its concerns, and parents do need to be informed.  There have been a number of issues cited.  Some are funny, like someone walking into, or getting stuck in, a tree while focusing on the screen.  Some are not funny like someone walking into traffic, or worse.  And some are scary like potential malware issues, unintentional trespassing or people leveraging the game to commit muggings/robbery.  Japan has issued its own advice on the subject.

   Here are my top tips for parents, or anyone, who wants to safely play Pokemon Go:

  • Get the real app - make sure you get the app from an official app store.  Don't side load applications.  There have been cases of rogue and malicious Pokemon Go knock-offs.
  • Always check the app permissions for any app you are downloading.  We've discussed this in the past.
  • Make a separate account - don't use your google or other accounts to log in.
  • Charge your battery - and use the battery saver mode both on the phone and in the app
  • Use the camera and watch where you are going
  • It's a team activity - even for Team Rocket! :-)  Play along with others because there is safety, and fun, in numbers.
  • Know the road - if you are going to unfamiliar areas to hunt
  • Know your surroundings - don't trespass.  If a Pokestop looks sketchy, move on.
  • Stick to reasonable hours

   Here are more privacy tips and an article with some tips if you do want to catch 'em all!

   What are your thoughts?  Is Pokemon Go good or a problem?  Do you, or would you, play?  And what do you think about Augmented Reality?

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