iv. the Pokémon GO Plus and embodied space

The Pokémon GO Plus – the Pogo+ or Poképlus – is a wearable technology that connects to the smartphone via Bluetooth allowing the user to play Pokémon GO without being restricted to the mobile phone screen. Playing Pokémon GO, contrary to reports (see the Pokémon GO Death Counter) is concerned with locating the self in space by triangulating the player location in both the real world and the virtual world represented on the mobile phone screen.

The Poképlus is a device which translates onscreen information into blinking colours and vibrations. The device is shaped like a mashup of the Google map ‘pin’ and the classic white and red Pokéball. It attaches to a wrist strap or clip providing the user with the ability to feel, see and hear the location of Pokémon and Pokéstops within the sphere of detection permitted by the app (approximately 40 metres in diameter).

The Pokémon GO Plus lets players see, feel, hear and respond to the world of Pokémon away from their screens.

The player can put their phone in a pocket and interact with the local environment through a button press, which glows green in the proximity of a Pokémon, yellow if the Pokémon is not in the player’s Pokédex, and blue in the presence of Pokéstops. If the Pokémon is captured the device vibrates in a distinct pulsing rhythm, matched with a LED flashing pattern of green, blue, red, and white. An escaping Pokémon results in a simple short pulse accompanied by a red flash. Approaching a Pokéstop the device flashes blue and the player gathers the items from that stop in the app with a button press that results in simple vibration and multiple colours flashing to indicate success.

The Poképlus transforms the experience of space and place in a much more embodied and less visual way that the game played only through the screen. The Poképlus makes the game less about using the screen to reveal the world filled with Pokémon, and more about using the body to interact with the game’s translation of the environment, bringing the game into the physical and tangible world in a different way.

I found the Poképlus to be a massive release from lifting the screen up to view when walking. No longer does my neck ache after a Pokémon Go play session. It means that my walks with the game were less punctuated by stops and starts, and a more seamless movement through the environment. There is a degree of anxiety that I first encountered when playing with the Plus as the catch rate for Pokémon feels more random. The device is also deeply connected to the in-game economy, as it only uses basic Pokéballs in the catching process, which means these can be depleted and have to be replaced through buying currency and items in the game. The catching process is limited to a single throw, which means that higher level and rarer Pokémon can evade capture more easily. I had to make the conscious effect not to look at the in-game journal and ignore the ones that got away.

I use the Poképlus every day, and thoroughly enjoy the transformation of play into a differently embodied experience. It’s a device that reveals how AR experiences don’t have to be limited to interacting with screens and it shows how wearable technologies might expand interactions with our environments in simple and effective ways in the future.

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