As I was washing the dishes this morning, I started thinking about Ingress.
Ingress is a massively-multiplayer geolocation game by a division of Google. In it, players must move around to different locations and interact with “portals”.
While it is a fun game, I’ve been having this nagging thought about why Google would spend time on it in the first place. Then it dawned on me: advertising.
A lot of speculative fiction writers, like Paolo Bacigalupi, have predicted a future in which we run around with augmented reality headsets (a lá Google Glass) and information is overlaid on top of what we actually see. While it sounds all well and good, creating such a system is non-trivial. You would need to have something that knows your location pretty accurately, which way you are facing, and can present some sort of icon or image with which you can interact and be able to do this for lots of people at the same time.
I think this is the real reason Google is spending time on Ingress and why they aren’t bothering with an iOS port. What better way to get hundreds of thousands of people to volunteer to beta test your next generation platform?
I think it’s brilliant.