NINTENDO’S Pokemon Go isn't officially available in Canada, but that hasn't stopped Canadians from joining what has become a worldwide craze.
A tweet from Chad Harris of CFJC-TV shows a picture of the back of a pickup truck at Riverside Park with a sign offering to charge your phone for $5. Yes, hunting for Pokemons in augmented reality uses up a lot of battery power.
The park is apparently swarming with virtual Pokemon that you can catch with your device. It is also the site of a Pokemon gym, where teams can lead their Pokemon into battle against each other. There is another gym at City Hall.
Of course we Canadians want to join the fun, but there is a risk — especially if you're using an Android device to download the app from some sketchy site. There have been reports of these apps being loaded with malware.
It's safer for iPhone users, but they have to go through the hassle of changing their iTunes account to pretend that they're based in the United States.
It might not be quite as much fun, but you can get a legitimate preview of the game by downloading an app called Ingress. It also takes advantage of your device's GPS tracking to find virtual items in the real world.
The advantage of Pokemon Go is that it is a lot like similar games people have played for years — collecting, trading, battling. But with this version, you actually get off the couch.
That has led to dire warnings from people predicting it's only a matter of time before someone kills themselves because of the distraction of hunting for Pokemons. Vox has an explainer on how the game works plus a rundown on incidents that include finding a dead body and being lured into a robbery.
These are likely the same people who have complained for years about gamers being anti-social and never getting out of the house. Well, now they're out in the light of day — meeting people and getting exercise.
Actually, it's good that someone found that dead body. It might solve a crime or bring closure for a family.
And as for the robbery, that's something that happens all the time in this world. The only reason this one was reported was because the robbers were clever enough to find a way to exploit something new.
The real danger is that people will drain their bank accounts.
Success in Pokemon Go depends on the equipment you're able to collect at PokeStops around town. If that doesn't work, you can buy it. So even though it's free to download and play, the game is making an estimated $1.7 million a day from in-app purchases.
And there are opportunities for Nintendo to make even more money. I can imagine a future update that allows you to set up a PokeStop or gym wherever you want. Businesses that cater to young people might be willing to pay to become designated as a gym where players would hang out.
Already you can set up lures that attract extra Pokemon (and players), but they only last for about half an hour.
The bigger picture is that Pokemon Go will act as an introduction to augmented reality — a newer technology that most people don't know much about. In the old days, solitaire was installed in computers as a way of getting people used to using the interface.
Once we get used to augmented reality, the door could open to all kinds of implementations we haven't even thought of. How about Minecraft as the next step?
On a side note, I'm glad to see that it's Nintendo leading the way. The company has been struggling lately, and I'd hate to see this iconic Japanese company go out of business.
Mark Rogers is a web content strategist at Thompson Rivers University. He publishes a blog at http://www.newsonaut.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.