The city of Moscow launched a limited version of “Know. Moscow. Photo,” an augmented reality app for iOS and Android with a striking similarity to Pokémon Go, on Monday.
“Know. Moscow. Photo” operates in a similar fashion to Pokémon Go, allowing users to capture virtual characters in real-life locations with their smartphone cameras. However, instead of hunting Pokemon, users search for and capture important Russian historical figures, according to Moscow’s Department of Information Technologies.
“The goal of the app is to attract attention to Moscow’s rich cultural heritage using fashionable augmented reality technology, as well as give Muscovites a reason to walk around more,” the city government said, according to The Guardian.
Virtual doubles of historical figures who are already wandering through the capital include Russian tsars Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great, first man in space Yuri Gagarin, Soviet rock legend Viktor Tsoi, the composer Pyotr Tchaikovsky, poet Alexander Pushkin, and Napoleon Bonaparte, who invaded Moscow in 1812, according to the Moscow government.
Unlike Pokémon Go, where Pokemon populate semi-randomly on the map, the historical figures in “Know. Moscow. Photo” appear in specific places in Moscow based on their life stories. For example, Tsoi can be found near a graffiti-covered wall bearing his name on the Arbat Street. The landmark is dedicated to Tsoi and is frequently visited by fans.
Once the full version launches in August, characters will begin appearing in multiple addresses or may move around, forcing users to search for him or her, according to the Moscow mayor’s office.
Many Russian government members have criticised the app however.
Ruling party MP Yevgeny Fyodorov accused the app’s developers of using it to cause “mass disturbances” and to destabilize Russia before parliamentary elections in September in an interview with Russian news website National News Service. The Communist MP Vadim Solovyov even called for banning the game, comparing it to drugs and gambling, according to MSK Agency, a Moscow-based news service.
“There’s the feeling that the devil came through this mechanism and is trying to simply tear us apart spiritually from within,” senator Frants Klintsevich told the state news agency Russia Today.