Augmented Reality (AR) saw its first big grab at the public consciousness with the launch of Pokémon GO, but the developer behind the popular game was only chipping away at the tip of the iceberg in terms of features and playability.
Now that Apple has officially launched ARKit, its own effort to expand AR functionality and give even more tools to AR-focused developers to build apps for iOS, Niantic is now taking advantage of the technology. Actually, this new push is a partnership between Niantic and Apple, with the latter company actually providing a handful of iPhone X models so that the developer could try out these new features.
As for what’s new, Niantic is calling it AR+, and it’s a mode that is capable of launching on ARKit-supported devices (iPhone 6s/6s Plus, iPhone SE, and newer models). The idea is to make catching the digital pocket monsters just a tad bit more “realistic,” with the little monsters interacting with the world around them in a more believable way. You’ll see flying Pokémon actually floating and moving around the screen, for instance. And pocket monsters stuck to the ground will move up and down and side-to-side on the earth around them.
As you get closer to a Pokémon you’ll notice that its size will better reflect the dimensions of the creature in the digital world. Meaning, a Charizard will look like the towering creature it’s supposed to.
The new AR+ mode also means that the Pokémon you are trying to catch will be aware of the trainer, too. The digital monsters will have an awareness bar next to them, and if they become too scared of the trainer’s proximity they will run away. If you manage to catch them without spooking them, though, you will earn an “Expert Handler” bonus. If the pocket monster does run away, you may be able to tap on the tall grass icon on the screen. If you’re lucky the Pokémon will jump out of the tall grass, giving you another opportunity to capture it.
Here’s how Niantic describes the aforementioned Expert Handler bonus:
“Think you have what it takes to be an expert Pokémon handler? While in AR+ mode, you’ll finally have the chance to prove it! If you’re able to catch a Pokémon while in close proximity, you’ll have a better chance at earning Great and Excellent Throw bonuses, as well as an all-new Expert Handler bonus that awards even more XP and Stardust.”
Niantic says that this is just one step towards making the Augmented Reality experience even better, and for players the new additions should make the game a bit more interactive and fun to experience. The new AR+ feature is available beginning today, so trainers can start enjoying the experience immediately.
Oh, and one more thing: Niantic says that the battery life on your device shouldn’t be heavily impacted by AR+ mode, because unlike the first iteration of the game, this new feature is actually taking advantage of built-in features and specs in the iPhone you’re using. By building with ARKit, these new elements shouldn’t drain your battery too much.
Are you still playing Pokémon GO? If not, will AR+ bring you back?[via Niantic]