Pokémon GO, the massively successful location-based mobile game, just got an update on iOS 11 thanks to Apple’s ARKit that gives iPhone 6s and above more realistic Pokémon-catching encounters.
Since it was released in summer 2016, Pokémon GO has been hailed as an augmented reality game capable of immersing you in the world of Pokémon like never before. The only problem is it wasn’t really AR.
Entering a battle to catch one of the elusive pocket monsters left you with two options; a simple battle sequence in a virtual environment, or a pass-through ‘AR mode’ that let you see the Pokémon projected on top of the real world. These projections only allowed for the most basic of interactions though, and wouldn’t actively change position according to the user’s movement in 3D space, making it impossible to walk closer to a Pokémon or even look around it to get a different vantage point—effectively leaving you with little more than a novelty in contrast to the game’s true potential: catching Pokémon as if they were really capable of existing in the physical world.
To that effect, Niantic has pushed what it calls an ‘AR+’ update to its iOS 11 app, allowing for Pokémon to be fixed to a point in space, meaning you can walk up close to Pikachu or Snorlax to see to how they’ll look in the real world.
Now that Pokémon actually have a fixed point in space, physically moving closer to the little beasties makes it easier to throw Pokéballs. To balance this advantage, Pokémon will run away if you get too close. Niantic says in a blogpost announcing AR+ that you’ll have to sneak up close to earn an Expert Handler bonus, but you’ll need to be extra cautious so you don’t scare it away, as an awareness meter now indicates how spooked they are. If the meter fills up, you’re in danger of losing them.
“This is our first step toward making AR capabilities in Pokémon GO even more awesome, opening up the framework for greater AR experiences in the future,” says Niantic.
The company will likely update the Android app at some point, although it would only be capable of running on phones that support Google’s ARCore. Initially supporting both the Pixel line and Samsung S8 line, ARCore is said to roll out to 100 million devices in the coming months though, setting up Niantic’s next big IP, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, to be a smash hit as it hopefully rolls out to both AR-supporting Android and iOS devices.