Friday, December 14, 2012

Ingress

William Gibson wrote in one of his books that 'cyberspace is everting.'  Simply put the digital world is spilling out into real-world experiences.  We've really just scratched the surface of the marriage/interplay of the digital and physical worlds that's enabled by ubiquitous connectivity and mobile devices.  The augmented reality and mobile location based technology that's cutting edge today will most certainly seem quaint in just a few years.  The recently launched global alternate reality game, Ingress, gives a sneak peek of what (I believe) will become more pervasive and incredibly common in the not too distant future.

So what is Ingress?  It is a new location-based augmented reality game from Google-owned Niantic Labs.  The premise is that the world around you is not what it seems.  The game puts you and your smartphone (Android only at the moment) in the middle of a global battle between two sides that plays out in real life all around you, regardless of where you live.

As AllThingsD explains: 'Users can generate virtual energy needed to play the game by picking up units of “XM,” which are collected by traveling walking paths, like a real-world version of Pac-Man. Then they spend the energy going on missions around the world to “portals,” which are virtually associated with public art, libraries and other widely accessible places.

“The concept is something like World of Warcraft, where everyone in the world is playing the same game,” Hanke said. Players are on one of two teams: “The Enlightened,” who embrace the power, or “The Resistance,” who fight the power. Anyone can play from anywhere in the world, though in more densely played areas there will be more local competition for resources.
Outdoor physical activity is a big component of this, though driving between locations isn’t banned. “You’re like a rat in a maze on the phone,” Hanke said. Then, back at your computer, you can review the larger area and gameplay.'

It's really a magical experience and even more so when you consider that there's no discreet start and stop to the game.  It could go on for several years as a sort of constant background activity that we engage with when out in the physical world or as part of our daily routine such as commuting.  If you look at the popularity of MMORPG and extrapolate that out into the real world, you can see the massive potential behind such games (and I wonder if there will be a the equivalent click-sweat shops and selling of characters for real-world MMORPGs like currently exists for games such as World Of Warcraft).  Anyhow, the video below gives you an additional sense of what it's all about.  If you're interested you can head over to the Ingress site to get an invite to join in the game


hat tip:  Matthieu De Fayet for reminding me to write this up