Is Augmented Reality the Future? What CRE Marketers Can Learn from Pokemon Go

CRE Technology

Is Augmented Reality the Future? What CRE Marketers Can Learn from Pokemon Go

pokemon go logo

Unless you’ve been trapped in an Internet vacuum for the past three months or so, then it’s extremely unlikely that you’ve not seen at least a dozen articles about Pokemon Go.

This is because Pokemon Go is everywhere you browse. Go to a news site: there’s always news about Pokemon Go and now here’s a high-brow opinion piece; visit the official website out of curiosity, prepare to be pursued by Pokemon Go ads (almost like you’re the Pokemon); scan your social media accounts and someone, somewhere, will have something to say about Pokemon Go – or a rare Pokemon to show-off.

In short, Pokemon Go is a phenomenon. And from this phenomenon there are quite a few things to learn about augmented reality and marketing – especially in sectors like commercial real estate where it’s been tipped as ‘the future’, or just a part of the future.

Now the dust has settled, just a bit, here are 4 key things to take from it all…

1. The Technology is Here

It takes a technological turning point to fuel the full-on phenomenality of an experience like Pokemon Go.

The combination of universal smartphone ownership; powerful processors, and easy access to the Internet has led to the enormous number of downloads (so far nearly 100million) and the accessibility of the app / game.

And when it comes to the game itself – there are some pretty clever ideas that have been realised with tech, such as GPS. Legendary Pokemon (like the mythical Mew) are set to only be released at public events. And you won’t find certain types of Pokemon outside of their suitable habitats: you’d be naïve to expect an encounter with a whale-esque Wailmer in a Walmart (rather than by the water) for example.

Some Pokemon are even endemic to certain countries.

Image 1 - Pokemon Chart of Rare Pokemon

So it could be argued that what we’re seeing is the tip of a paradigm shift. If augmented reality can work this well, so in tune with the real world, and become so popular and accessible, then the technological backdrop is in place for augmented reality to really step up and become mainstream.

What to take away:

There are already a few (basic) augmented reality apps: Zoopla has a longstanding app for iPhone and Android that has incorporated AR elements to display property prices on the move. And SnapShop Showroom, shown below, uses augmented reality so that buyers can visualize how an empty office or home space could look.

Image 2 - My Snapshop App

But now the technology is slotting into place, especially on the user side, more immersive apps could appear on an upward (and outward) trajectory. 3D renderings could rise from property magazines; you could point your smartphone (or wearable device) at a developing building and essentially see the future; augmented reality could even be mixed with other tech, like holographic projections or virtual reality, to create barely-imaginable immersive possibilities.

2. Augmented Reality = PR

Pokemon, smartphones, and augmented reality have fused to almost break the Internet.

It would be loose to say that augmented reality and commercial real estate marketing could erupt in the same way. But you can extrapolate from the sheer volume of coverage, backlinks, shares, comments etc. to reason that augment reality is big, interesting, impactful news.

The information overload speaks for itself, but here’s data from Google Trends of the bombardment of news coverage since the game was released on the 6th of July, compared to related trends like ‘virtual reality’ and ‘augmented reality’.

Without Pokemon Go

With Pokemon Go

Where did the other two go? And if you compare against universal topics like ‘travel’ and ‘vacations’ then that towering wall of publicity is still there.

What to take away:

If you’re in marketing or PR – or even if you’re developing an augmented reality app – then you could take advantage of the surge of interest (and experimentation) in augmented reality that Pokemon Go has stimulated.

Or if you’re involved in other immersive technologies, like virtual reality, holograms or projections – the same goes: it’s a good time to be involved or just to be part of the scene.

3. New Local Amenities

Exploration is central to Pokemon Go – it’s an exciting part of the game and key to its potential. Friends, acquaintances, or just unrelated groups of players, can group together and go hunting for treasure (rare Pokemon).

This appeal is pretty clear. However, what’s less predictable is that landmarks, areas and neighborhoods have become mass gathering spots due to their special status in the game, or their close proximity to PokeStops, rare Pokemon etc.

So it follows that commercial real estate sellers could begin to use a property’s prominence, from a Pokemon perspective, as a selling point to brokers and investors (and ultimately tenants) – at least if the game continues on its mighty cultural-curve.

What to take away:

Putting together a map of local amenities and facilities? Could a PokeStop go on it alongside information on transport links? This seems like a strange question but these are strange days when even churches are welcoming players in.

Sharplaunch’s Amenities Map, with PokeStop on the far right:

Image 6 - Sharplaunch Amenities Map

The answer’s debatable. Productivity’s a concern but safety is too: people have been having bad accidents because of the distractions  and a man was recently incarcerated in Indonesia after hunting for Pokemon at a top-secret military base.

4. Don’t Expect too Much, Too Soon

More than just a counterpoint to point 1, if you’ve taken the time to get out and play Pokemon Go, there’s a fair chance you can vouch for the lukewarm ‘augmented reality’ experience that the game actually offers.

Led along by the hype, you expected the game to seamlessly blend reality and Pokemon – to lead you into a parallel universe where fantastic creatures are alive in your lounge and on your streets; hiding under your car, on your sofa, on top of the dog.

Instead, some randomly-generated Pokemon are superimposed above whatever your smartphone happens to be pointed at. They’re not showing intelligence or awareness, nor interacting with objects or terrain, and it’s a bit of a let-down. Parts of the press would agree.

Frequent crashes and technical issues also blighted the early release of the game and continue to create huge problems (and fury). And let’s not forget that augmented reality is only so immersive when you’ve got to wave a smartphone around in the air to make things happen. In the meantime, more intuitive wearables like Google Glass are still quite a way off.

What to take away:

Augmented reality, and other immersive technologies, could turn commercial real estate marketing (and marketing in general) on its head.

But it’s fair to say there will be a lot of incremental testing and probing before then. If a Jigglypuff Pokemon can’t appear so convincingly – without challenges, crashes and clunky visuals – then perhaps the incredible end of the augmented reality spectrum isn’t set to appear so suddenly either.

Expect bugs, false starts, glitches and crashes along the way. Marketers and developers should beware of a token, fundamentally broken nod to these new technologies that does more harm than good.

Have you hunted?

Is it all a fad? Are augmented reality and other immersive technologies the future in real estate marketing (or just marketing in general)? Have you caught a Rare Snorlax Pokemon yet!?

Let us know in the comments.

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