du’s Hala Badri weighs in on the Pokémon Go craze that’s hit the UAE

The Executive Vice President, Brand & Communications at du, discusses how augmented reality games may get individuals who are not exercise inclined to change their habits and become more active.

Hala Badri Executive Vice President Brand and Communications duHala Badri, Executive Vice President, Brand & Communications, du.

Technology is changing the face of healthcare as we know it – and in very innovative and surprising ways. The proliferation of technology and the uptake of mobile devices across the globe had resulted in people everywhere leading more sedentary lifestyles – everything they needed was already at their fingertips, and the abundance of connectivity and connectedness further added to this. Surprisingly, it is this very connectedness that has really changed the tides when it comes to individual wellbeing; it has revitalised the way in which people are approaching their activity and health.

Last week, Pokémon Go, an interactive augmented reality game from Nintendo, exploded onto the market and knocked the top apps right of their perches to take the number one spot. Apart from its popularity, this new game is a perfect example of the way that gamification is making people more active, and integrating into their daily activities.

While gamification has been a popular topic for a number of years, it is becoming increasingly immersive inspiring new ways of getting active. Positively changing daily behaviours can help in creating a more active society. What Pokémon Go does is it changes people’s routines – so where they may have once played a game on the couch, now they are actively searching for the characters, in gardens, malls and parking lots.

Unlike games that centre around fitness, such as Dance Central, Zombies! Run and activities on the Wii Fit, Pokémon Go is not an exercise game as such. As a result, gamers are not setting fitness goals and are doing something else while getting fit – and as more and more people participate, there have been reports of players walking as much as 10km in one day.

If combined with monitoring apps, consumers may become even more motivated to integrate more active habits into their everyday routines by monitoring their activity levels and setting their performance targets alone, or with a friend. So those who may have previously led sedentary lifestyles due to lack of time, and reliance on their mobile phones for information, can now use those same devices to count the number of stairs they climb at work – instead of taking the lift, the number of steps they take by walking to a lunch destination, or from a further parking space – or indeed walking to catch the next Pokémon.

In creating a game that encourages activity, children can now also participate and get more active together with their devices. With Pokémon Go, however, it comes with its caveats. There have been international reports of users venturing into people’s gardens and crossing roads without paying attention – so a level of education is necessary for all participants, but especially the youth who partake in these games. Adults also have to remain aware of when to play the game, and when not to – in the United States there has been an increase in traffic accidents due to avid players distracted by the game.

While this game in particular may be the flavour of the week – so to speak – it will pave the way for the emergence of other games with similar augmented reality features. In anticipation of this, we have to be hyper aware of how interactions in the augmented reality space will affect our interaction with the real world. There are both positive and negative aspects of the emergence of augmented reality as the new game/fitness craze, the most positive of which, for our region especially, is that they will get people who are otherwise reluctant exercisers on their feet and moving. And that can only be a good thing.