'Pokémon Go' on the iPhone is getting a big update, thanks to some new technology from Apple

NianticThanks to its upgraded augmented reality technology, the new version of ‘Pokémon Go’ will be able to tell just how close you are to the game’s virtual creatures.
  • Niantic is releasing an updated version of “Pokémon Go” for Apple’s iPhones and iPads this week.
  • The new version will incorporate Apple’s ARkit augmented reality technology.
  • The updated version should offer a more compelling and realistic augmented reality experience.

“Pokémon Go,” the breakout augmented reality game, is getting an upgrade of the technology it helped popularise. Later this week, game developer Niantic will release a new version of “Pokémon Go” for Apple’s iPhones and iPads. The update will incorporate Apple’s new ARkit technology, which it designed to help developers add augmented reality features to their apps.

What does that mean for you, the devoted Pokémon trainer? In short, you’ll see an improved augmented reality experience, dubbed AR+, that will bring better graphics to the game and some new types of gameplay. But you’ll need an iPhone 6s or more recent iPhone model to take advantage of the new features.

Since it launched in the summer of 2016, “Pokémon Go” has had an augmented reality (AR) mode that overlays digital creatures on top of real-world images taken from a phone’s camera. The mode got mixed reviews. Experienced players found that it to be a distraction that made catching Pokémon more difficult. So many turn it off.

How the new AR+ mode works

The new AR+ mode appears to replace the old AR mode entirely. Now if you can scan any flat area in front of you with your iPhone or iPad camera while playing the game, virtual bushes will appear. If you shake those bushes by touching them, a Pokémon will pop out.

Pokemon go apple arkitNianticThanks to ARkit, Pokémon now appear to be standing on solid ground, instead of hovering in the air.

In the old AR mode, Pokémon would frequently appear to be hovering above the ground. Now, thanks to ARkit, they appear to have their feet (or flippers) firmly planted on terra firma. It’s a way more convincing effect.

The updated version of “Pokémon Go” also takes advantage of the depth-sensing capabilities built into ARkit. It can tell how far you are away from the virtual creatures you encounter. If you move your phone just the right distance from them when you capture them, the game will add an “Expert Handler” bonus to your experience points and your Stardust currency.

Niantic first announced it would use ARkit to update “Pokémon Go” in June, when Apple unveiled the technology. The announcement was notable because “Pokémon Go” has been seen as a proof-of-concept for augmented reality apps.

The game has been a huge hit. It’s been downloaded over 800 million times, Niantic said recently, and, as of April 2017, it had 65 million active players.

Apple has been touting augmented reality as a major new technology for the company. Its newest iPhones, including the $US999 iPhone X, have cameras that are “tuned” for augmented reality, according to the company.

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