It shouldn’t be all that surprising that Pokémon GO made an appearance at Apple’s WWDC conference today. It’s among the most popular apps of all time, after all, and lit the App Store up like fireworks when it arrived last summer. Apple chose to talk about it in the context of ARKit, a new augmented reality platform launching alongside iOS 11 in the fall. Essentially, it uses the iPhone’s cameras and sensors to get an idea of what the world around it looks like and realistically place objects in that world. Among other demos, Apple showed off an improved version of Pokémon GO that placed Pikachu on a sidewalk rather than having the Pokémon float in midair like it does now. A missed Pokéball appears to more realistically roll down the sidewalk, as well. It’s a bit hard to tell how big a deal it is from the relatively static angle, but it could really increase the validity of the “Pokémon in the world around you” illusion.
Of course, it’s not the change the game really needs, nor is it the change anyone is really asking for at this point. Most everyone I know that still plays the game does so with the AR camera off, and there’s no reason to assume this would change even with a more sophisticated version. There remains a stark divide between Niantic the Google offshoot that’s deeply interested in technical leaps like this one and Niantic the game developer, which constantly seems to be struggling to understand how people actually use their app, and why. I would much rather have a functional combat system, PvP or meaningful progression before I had a deeper camera experience. Stuff like this can’t hurt, of course.
Implementation is a giant question mark given that ARKit is an Apple project, even if there is an Android equivalent. But this makes a lot of sense as a major evolution of Pokémon GO: it might not change the way that you play the game on any fundamental level, but it could breathe fresh life into the social media scene. Regardless, it’s clearly the sort of thing that Niantic and larger tech companies are interested in.