Augmented reality (AR) is changing the way smart phones and tablets are being used. Ingress – a gaming app that fuses real world maps with a sci fi driven narrative – is a gateway for bringing people together via AR. It raises questions about how users interact with technology and access information.
Ingress was created by Niantic Labs – a startup company that is part of Google. The company took its name from a whaling vessel that brought people to San Francisco in the Gold Rush, 1849.
The boat was run aground and converted into a storehouse and hotel in 1850. Since that time, parts of the ship have been destroyed by fire, incorporated into new buildings and rediscovered in situ . It is literally part of the fabric of San Francisco as a city.
Bruce Upbin, a writer for Forbes, made an astute comment about Niantic as a name: “A giant sailing ship buried beneath the inattentive thrum of high-tech SF–it’s an all-too-perfect metaphor for a team of people using tech to unearth hidden context.”
Games like Ingress are designed so that mobile devices are used to interact with the real world. It is a process John Hanke, founder of Niantic Labs and creator of Google Earth, has described as “seeing with new eyes.” In other words, Ingress has been designed to engage with reality as opposed to divert attentions away from it. Mobile devices are used to bring people together.
Ingress is a focal point for users. It has utilized information and communication technologies (ICT) to bring people together from all over the world. Simulacrum – a digital anthropology blog written by a University College London (UCL) based researcher – even used social media to examine the demographic of Ingress players.
Startups like Niantic Labs are using AR to bring different user communities together. On a base level, Ingress could be seen as a digitally fueled role playing game (RPG). It is, however, not as simple as that.
Ingress is location aware and interactive. It is driven by handheld computers that contain multiple sensors. Future releases like Endgame will build upon lessons learnt by Hanke and the team at Niantic Labs. The AR experience will be incorporated into other forms of entertainment, such as novels and films. Social media will also continue to play a vital role in bringing users together.