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‘Pokémon Go’ levels up its augmented reality abilities with Apple’s ARKit

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Pokémon Go will soon be getting an upgrade on all recent Apple devices with the integration of iOS 11’s new, built-in augmented reality development framework, called ARKit. After an upcoming patch, devices capable of utilizing ARKit features will see an improvement to the basic AR capabilities of the game, as well as new gameplay mechanics that take advantage of the upgraded capabilities.

After activating AR+ mode in the game, Pokémon will be more accurately placed in the world when viewed in the AR encounter mode. Trainers will be able to change their distance and angle and the Pokémon will track to your perspective, better achieving the original game’s promise of finding and catching Pokémon that feel like they’re in the real world.

The improved AR tracking is more than cosmetic. It will be easier to catch Pokémon from close up, but they will also be more likely to notice you and run away if you approach too quickly, adding a new element of risk and reward to catching Pokémon in the wild. Catching Pokémon from close range will award a new Expert Handler bonus, which nets you more XP and stardust, providing a strong incentive to utilize and master these new features. AR+ mode will work on iPhone 6S, 5th generation iPads, all iPad Pro, and any subsequently released iOS devices.

Pokémon Go was the first breakout AR app, introducing the world to what the medium could bring to gaming. It did so using only the basic camera capabilities of smartphones, and thus the seams of its fantasy were always pretty apparent. Now the technology is catching up to the game’s promise. Most of the apps utilizing ARKit so far are for either marketing products or novelty photos, so Pokémon Go‘s AR+ mode will be one of the most exciting uses yet.

Although Pokémon Go has faded in stature somewhat from its 2016, zeitgeist-defining launch, developer Niantic has kept busy with a steady stream of updates for the community, regularly adding events and new Pokémon to keep things interesting for its loyal community. Niantic also recently announced that it has acquired the rights to develop an AR game based on the Harry Potter franchise, so any experience earned here with Pokémon Go‘s AR+ mode will feed directly into the AR features of that upcoming project.

Will Fulton
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Will Fulton is a New York-based writer and theater-maker. In 2011 he co-founded mythic theater company AntiMatter Collective…
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