a game made for glass

03/16/2013

Not sure if Ingress is a data sourcing mechanism, or simply an augmented reality title waiting to happen?
Whatever, I sent in my application for the beta today & it’s on Play

Cool article describing it here: cnet

On my smartphone, I was capturing portals and linking them to far-flung places; in the real world, I was a guy standing on a corner dodging people heading back to the office after lunch. Alternate reality games promise a kind of magical intersection between real and virtual worlds; Ingress, at least at this early stage, hasn’t quite delivered it.

Update: Insightful post on Reddit, but I also read something this morning about adverts within the game & affilate companies, with a comparison to Foursquare.

At a guess, it’s about getting Google good data for footpath routes to compete with Nokia’s recently announced turn-by-turn navigation for pedestrians.

Remember Google’s free automated directory enquiries service that everyone wondered about (“why would they do that? What’s the benefit? Where’s the business model?”), that they cleverly used to quickly and effectively build a vast corpus of spoken word queries in a variety of accents, and to train the voice-recognition systems that subsequently made it into Google Voice and Android… and then as soon as it was built, they shut down GOOG-411.

Or how about ReCAPTCHA, where their free CAPTCHA service also helped them to automatically resolve edge-cases and unrecognised words when production-line digitising books for Google Books?

Now note how Ingress is specifically geared to:

Users can generate virtual energy needed to play the game by… traveling walking paths, like a real-world version of Pac-Man. Then they spend the energy going on missions around the world to “portals,” which are virtually associated with public art, libraries and other widely accessible places… Outdoor physical activity is a big component of this, though driving between locations isn’t banned

I.e., it’s very, very much about walking places… while carrying a GPS-enabled mobile device with a camera and accelerometer and wi-fi and mobile data connection built into it… while running their app that can report whatever it wants back to their servers and has to for you to be able to play the game.

Players walk around footpaths and pedestrian routes that Google Maps currently doesn’t cover well, and then as a reward they get to… walk around art installations, libraries and other large, pedestrian-only public areas. All the time the game client is reporting back to Google their position, speed and the like, so Google gets to build a massive database of popular pedestrian-accessible areas and common routes between and around them. It’s genius.

I’d also be very surprised if Google didn’t manage to factor in taking geotagged photos of these various locations into the game as mission objectives. After all, if you’ve just managed to convince thousands or millions of people to build you a massive GPS-tagged pedestrian-accessible location and route database essentially for free, you’d have to be pretty stupid not to also get them to take geotagged photos and similar media for you while they do it.

(Edit: Fucking hah – called it!)

Hell, the game probably records wi-fi SSIDs and a whole bunch of other useful datapoints, too.

(Edit And again!)

Google are very good at manipulating vast datasets, and if anything they’re even better at finding inventive and mutually-beneficial ways to convince large numbers of people to voluntarily build those datasets for them.

TL;DR: Whatever the plot’s about, the point of it is to quickly and cheaply build an unrivaled corpus of pedestrian-accessible routes, locations and journey-times for the next generation of foot-enabled Google Maps and Navigation apps, or I’ll eat my hat.

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