By Wendy Eichenbaum
What was originally a novelty becomes the standard by which all products, services or companies are measured, even when the original implementation was not your competitor.
Balboa Park is San Diego’s Central Park. Its Prado area, filled with museums, restaurants, and landmarks, is deserted once the sun goes down. That was until July 6, 2016. Now when you arrive at the Prado at night, you may not get a close parking spot. The Prado is filled with hundreds of people playing Pokémon Go.
The majority of people are Millennials. But you’ll find a significant showing of families, ranging in age from tots to parents. And that’s no surprise. Over 80 million people have downloaded Pokémon Go. Why does this matter? Pokémon Go is a mash-up of technologies: GPS, mapping, camera, and social media. And it’s this combination that revolutionizes how people can interact with their apps.
The new interactions, which first delight users, eventually will become the bar, and apps below this bar will be considered old school. Users have a new set of expectations. The shift in expectations is no different than Amazon Prime, where we now believe that everything should be delivered in two days for free.
Pokémon Go is an Augmented Reality (AR) game. This means the user interface lays computer-generated elements over real world elements. This is very different than Virtual Reality (VR) games, where a user is immersed in a completely computer generated world. The potential of AR is that designers can place computer-generated elements on the screen as appropriate, providing an intuitive, seamless transition between the current information and the desired next step, no headset required.
In Pokémon, when a user comes in contact with a landmark (a PokéStop), the UI automatically displays an icon so users can access information about that landmark with one tap. The process is simple, immediate, and contextual. Users don’t have to navigate to a search field, open a QR code reader, or ask Siri.
Imagine if you were in a museum, held your phone to a piece of art, and an icon appeared on your screen to access more information. Or perhaps you’re at a hotel, and you hold up your phone to get a floor plan with icons for amenities and locations. One player I spoke with wanted a version of mapping for hiking, where users could crowdsource information about trails and vegetation.
And this technology is coming to driving. WayRay is a company developing holographic car navigation. The virtual indicators are projected on the road ahead without the need to wear a headset or glasses. Down the line they also could provide indicators for gas, hotels, restaurants, etc.
I asked Pokémon Go players, called Trainers, how the game had changed their expectations for gaming and apps. I repeatedly heard three themes: fitness, social interaction, and nostalgia. Pokémon was far more effective than Fitbit for motivating players to exercise. Fitbit would track exercise, but Pokémon actually got them off the couch. Pokémon entertained them so the walking did not seem like exercise.
Players enjoyed meeting their friends in person to play. The game bonded players rather than making them adversaries because everyone in the group could catch the same Pokémon. Finally, many of the players grew up playing Pokémon with cards or a Gameboy, and were eager to revisit the game.
AR still has a way to go before it becomes the bar for all of our apps. But it’s a powerful reminder about CX. What was originally a novelty becomes the standard by which all products, services or companies are measured, even when the original implementation was not your competitor.
About the Author
Wendy Eichenbaum has been a UX professional since the early-1990’s. She began her career as a technical writer. She then earned a Master of Arts in Professional Writing at Carnegie Mellon University, studying both writing and UI design. Over the years, she has worked across verticals, from start-ups to multi-national firms, in many areas of UX including research & strategy, Information Architecture, usability testing, and focus groups. She started her own UX consulting firm in 2008, Ucentric Design. And she is an adjunct professor at Cal State University, Fullerton. There she teaches a class that she created, User-Centered Design for Web and Mobile Interfaces.