Pokémon Go boss says VR could be a danger to society

Justin Mahboubian-Jones
Photo credit: Giphy

From Digital Spy

The head of the studio behind Pokémon Go has said that virtual reality could pose a danger to society by being "too good".

As reported by Gamesindustry, the head honcho at Niantic Labs, John Hanke, issued the warning on stage at the Mixed Reality Summit this morning.

"My thing about VR is I'm afraid it can be too good, in the sense of being an experience that people want to spend a huge amount of time in," he said. "I mean, I already have concerns about my kids playing too much Minecraft, and that's a wonderful game.

"We're human beings and there's a lot of research out there that shows we're actually a lot happier when we get exercise, when we go outside - and outside in nature in particular," he continued.

"I think it's a problem for us as a society if we forgo that and spend all of time in a Ready Player One-style VR universe."

Pokémon Go makes use of augmented rather than virtual reality by superimposing its fictional creatures on the world around players.

Go requires players to travel around their cities, towns and local areas in order to play effectively. Generally speaking, the further players travel, the more Pokémon can be caught. The game actively encourages players to "get up and go", and has won praise from many quarters, including doctors, for getting players off the couch.

"With AR, there's a huge amount of potential to do things that really do have a positive impact on people," said Hanke.

"There is research about the health impact of Pokemon Go in particular but you can expand that to apply to all AR games. These games can encourage people to be more active than they would normally be. As a parent, part of my motivation for building this kind of game was to try and get my kids out of the house. I think there's a ton of good that can be done."

Hanke also dismissed the notion that Niantic Labs could start its own VR projects, citing a crowded market.

Right now VR isn't a physically rigorous activity, but as VR kits become more mobile, the possibility of walking, running and getting a sweat on inside a headset becomes more likely. Some projects, like The Void in Utah, already offer more mobile VR experiences that extend beyond a single room.

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