Augmented reality is here, and is already having a strong impact on everyone, including those who never played a video game in their lives and never heard about augmented reality.
Pokemon Go, a smartphone game that lets users catch imaginary figures of Pokemon (pronounced the same way in plural) on real streets, has become a global phenomenon in just a couple of weeks. It is dominating the Appstore, already boasts more users than Tinder and Twitter, and will be officially launching in the UK in a matter of days. Millions of gamers who got out of their rooms to browse through the real cities in search of virtual monsters mark the beginning of the new era for all of us, where the virtual and real worlds collide. And judging by the news from the past week, no one is ready for this collision and it will likely be quite painful.
The game in a nutshell
Pokemon Go uses the player's smartphone GPS data (similar to Google Maps) and camera to navigate them across the real streets and parks of the city or village in search for little virtual monsters. As a player moves along, she comes across different Pokemon, which she needs to capture. Some physical locations in the cities have been labelled by Niantic Inc, a Google split-off behind the game, as Pokestops -- places, where gamers can collect tools to capture more Pokemon. Players can also purchase the "lure modules" and place them in a Pokestop, which will attract the virtual figures to their area for 30 minutes, so they can capture even more Pokemon.
Once a player collected her Pokemon, she can train them in a local "gym" to get stronger and fight with Pokemon of other players.
Many gamers are enthusiastically sharing on social media that they are finally motivated to get into the streets instead of sitting in their homes, in search of new Pokemon, and even make real friends with strangers, who are on the hunt for monsters.
So why should you care? At the end of the day, this all sounds like an innocent fun for teenagers and kidults, who refuse to grow up. Except that it is not, and has already affected many more people around who have nothing to do with gaming.
What's going on?
The first worrying news is, of course, that the number of people staring at their phone screens all the time, while walking in the streets, will increase disproportionally. There have already been multiple reports of smaller and larger injuries, with players damaging themselves while trying to get a virtual figure and not noticing the traffic or change in the landscape. Drivers will now have to be even more attentive, as there'll be more players crossing the streets chasing a Pokemon and ignoring the cars. Let's hope not many of them will be in the driving seat.
Second, and even more disturbingly, the in-game "lure" feature has already been already reported as used by criminals to attract the players into the less crowded places with many Pokemon and rob them. The police in the US, where the game was released among the first, issued a warning to "keep behaving as you would do in a normal environment", advising players not to go by themselves to remote places, where they can be attacked. Easier said than done when you're on the hunt for a Pikachu.
Third, the life rhythm of many people who had nothing to do with gaming was disrupted, as physical locations defined as Pokestops and "gyms" in the game attracted players who tried catching Pokemon at all times of the day, including at night. Imagine waking up at 3am and seeing a group of people across your house furiously tapping their phones. The Northern Territory Police, Fire and Emergency Services in Australia issued a request to players not to go hunting inside the police station. So far Niantic Inc has not established the process of complaining and changing locations.
What we've learned so far
Over the last two weeks, we got yet another confirmation that software companies have an immense power to change the behaviour not only of single individuals, but also that of the masses. By simply placing a virtual figure next to a particular point, they can move thousands of people without any effort, disrupting the lives of businesses and humans. They might not still realize their own power, which isn't good news, because it means they aren't realizing their responsibility. Or they might realize it and only use it to earn money. Not good news either, let alone the fact that this power can be easily used and abused by criminals.
While the media is busy republishing the same press-release saying that the Pokemon Go is helping the gamers get into the real world, and hence helps their mental state, it's only a small part of the truth. What we actually witnessed is that people's brains getting totally confused with augmented reality. And this is only the beginning.
When the gaming company suggests we should "behave as normal", but claiming that is a hypocrisy at its worst or a total lack of understanding of how the human brain works. We are wired to look for unusual things, and Pokemon with their bright colours will be the first that our brain identifies. Not the "dangers" in the real world.
We all have certain "spacial maps" in our brains, according to which we navigate. Our brain is used to identify the obstacles and measure the distance to them. By stopping to use our side eyesight while staring at our phones, and stopping to rely on our sense of spacial awareness that has been developing for thousands of years, we put ourselves in the immense danger in the real world. A mobile phone is not an object that is capable to replace all of our 5 senses, and yet in the current version of the augmented reality this is what it encourages our brain to do. Again, all attempts to say that "people should behave normally" are simply a lie - you can not behave normally when your brain is overwhelmed and you are not using your normal perception channels.
Augmented reality as it is presented through Pokemon Go is not enhancing your life experience and perception, it is depriving you of your capabilities to react to the threats and opportunities of the real world.
Then again, the dopamine affect. Dopamine, the hormone of pleasure also associated with all sorts of addictions, gets released when we discover something new and unusual - and Pokemon Go perfectly fits the bill.
Add to that parents, who are clueless about what sort of things their kids are doing on their phones, as they "don't get this tech stuff" and we get a pretty apocalyptic picture.
What shall we do?
Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to say that Pokemon Go is an ultimate evil and needs to be prohibited. In fact, it's a very average and a rather raw game, which will be on its peak for a few months, until it's displaced by other, more sophisticated games.
However, the game release showed us that the power has shifted. Software companies now have as much (if not more) power as policy makers, but they don't have policies and procedures to prevent the harm they might do, except of "issuing a warning", which isn't doing anything. Our minds and behaviours are impacted in the strongest possible way, and our daily lives might be affected even if we have nothing to do with the above. And the worst thing, we aren't realizing it and keep enthusiastically experimenting on millions of people.
Perhaps it's time that we recognize that technology isn't just about "people having fun" or companies just earning money, but is actually bringing massive shifts to how each of us lives and how our society operates. Perhaps it's time to start talking about it in a constructive way in the public space - involving policy makers, media, lawyers, and of course, developers, who need to start thinking about the social consequences of their work and make it part of their daily jobs. Perhaps there need to be certain legal frameworks, and sociologists and emergency services need to be involved in the discussion before games like Pokemon Go get released. It's too big of an issue to run it as a worldwide an experiment.
Last week I spoke at the Future Health Summit in Dublin about flourishing in an age of digital distraction, the impact of tech on our minds and behavior, and what it means for the health industry. What should health tech industry keep in mind to make sure it is really making a change to people's lives? I hope you enjoy this recording kindly taken by Lawrence Ampofo from Digital Mindfulness.
Text by Taylah Donegan
With reportedly over 2 million people in South Korea considered to have an internet addiction (one of the highest numbers in the world), Koreans have finally started to notice the dangers of unbalanced use of devices. A number of popular TV entertainment shows are choosing to focus on the relationships between humans and technology.
On the 19th March 2016, Lee Sedol, a Korean champion in an ancient intellectual game of Go (or baduk), lost to the artificial intelligence program AlphaGo, produced by Google. The game that can last for several hours and has been likened to Chess in the West is one of the most popular ones in Korea, and Lee's setback was covered by the likes of Sky news and CNN.
In spite of his loss, Lee Sedol's popularity in Korea rose even more, especially amongst people who weren’t originally a fan of the game. His loss became a talking point in many Korean shows, and became the inspiration for an episode on a very popular TV show Running Man, which focused on Man vs Machine and tried to show how overdependent we have become on our devices,
Low tech challenges
Running Man is a Korean variety show that has been on the air for almost six years and has become a household name. The cast meet weekly to film the show which follows the format of small missions that lead into a final mission. This time, producers chose to give the cast a variety of tasks that highlighted just how dependent its citizens are on technology.
Missions such as making the members navigate themselves around the city without the use of a GPS caused a panic within cast members, in which several members exclaimed that they have never even used a map before in their lives. Interestingly, this issue was seen to not be generational, as oldest member Ji SukJin, who is 50 years old, had the most problems navigating himself around Seoul.
Other tasks included trying to win a match against a robotic arm in a game of balloon popping, and playing against a high tech computer in a popular Korean word association game, which in many ways resembled Lee Sedol’s match against the AlphaGo.
They resisted, but then enjoyed it
The challenges were initially detested by most of the members, comedian Kim Junho even exclaimed that he felt like a stress test lab rat.
However, over the course of the week, the cast began to notice that actually spending time with each other, and without technology coming literally in-between them, helped them to appreciate the value of one another, and loved ones, gaining relationships over convenience, and experiences that were analog - not digital.
In later episodes after that particular mission was over, some of the members even stated that they did try and reduce their usage of smart phones when they could. Overall, this particular episode did well, and the program even extended the mission to female comedians, when the show later expanded.
Running Man is not the first Korean show to highlight the issue of tech dependency. In late 2012, entertainment show The Human Condition challenged a group of comedians to live for one week without the use of smartphones, the Internet and television for their pilot episode, in a sort of social experiment.
With Korean rehabilitation clinics for Internet and gaming addiction on the rise, and with 1 in 4 teenagers diagnosed with Internet addiction attending these clinics, it is extremely important and beneficial that these major entertainment companies continue to tackle this issue from the source, and continue to showcase the effects of Internet dependency in a light hearted manner that allows conversation to begin.
We've got more tech life balance stories...
Are you a bee or a flower?
In coaching we use two approaches to marketing - a bee or a flower. A bee is active and busy all day. In marketing terms, she is pushing hard her message across – posting links, sending lots of emails, chasing potential clients, and pitching and pitching and pitching (talking about herself and her business). That’s how most businesses operate, and what worked quite well until recently.
A flower, on the other hand, just stays where it has grown, beautiful and smelling nicely, attracting the insects. In marketing terms, being a flower means creating value and more value for people first, before asking them for a deal. Being a flower means telling amazing stories, so that people come to you over and over again; creating communities and talking about people’s problems, not yours; getting others to speak about you instead of speaking yourself.
Being a flower requires great storytelling skills. We are all first and foremost in media business today, and great storytelling is the main currency these days. It has been recently proven that storytelling develop in people's brain oxytocin, the hormone of bonding and relationships. So the more great stories you tell your customers, the more bonded they feel to you. These stories need to be about them or very relevant to them. People generally like to talk about themselves, but when they are online, they tend to talk twice as much about themselves.
Stories also need to be sharable. Another important hormone, dopamine (sometimes called a hormone of pleasure) is generated in our brain when we discover great new info and/or gain social approval (i.e. likes on Facebook or Instagram). If you create something that people really want to share and that makes them feel good about themselves when they do so, they will come back to you to buy your stuff. For example, Redbull does an awesome job in it, and so does GoPro – both create great videos of adrenaline experiences of their customers and guest stars.
Expect that people will be talking about your content and your value, and you need to be willing got let go of control, because you really don’t have any influence around how it’s going to end up. If you are not – flower, or non-invasive marketing is not for you just yet.
10 reasons why they might not be reading your emails (listed in no particular order):
If you decide to be a “flower”, first and foremost, have a clear strategy of how you are going to provide value, not how you will sell your stuff. One way to do that is to answer this question: What is one question your audience is dying to find an answer to? Aren’t sure yet? Go out and ask them about their concerns and troubles! Seriously, it’s so simple, but amazingly few businesses do that.
Second, remember that our brain can’t multitask, we can only focus on one thing at a time. This means:
- Try to avoid distracting elements in your emails or website (i.e. flashy ads, lots of different fonts – these also put you at the risk of getting to spam filters, pop-up windows). On the latter – pop-up windows do work, but they don’t drive engagement (people hate them, and you do, too – so don’t overuse them, or if you do, make sure you are really providing some value through it).
- Minimize the number of links in your emails and texts. When we see links, our brain stops processing information to take a subconscious decision – should you click on it or not? Get too many links in the email – and you’ve lost the attention of your customer (and spam filters don’t like too many links anyways).
Fourth, use the data whenever you can! A/B test your subject lines (any decent mailing program does that for you). Professional journalists spend half of the time they work on an article on writing amazing headlines – and you must, too. Write 30 subject lines, choose 3 of them you like most, send the winner to the rest. A great subject line can increase your opening rates two times.
Fifth, personalize your communication. In emails, you can use the name of the person you’re writing to across different places. Gary Vaynerchuk, a US businessman and founder of a social media agency VaynerMedia, tried responding to his Twitter fans not by text, but by recording a quick video where he says thank you and calls his names. He says his response has been retweeted hundreds of times, and it only took him an extra 30 seconds of his time to do that.
Sixth, take a light approach – use humour and entertain your audience. Innocent does a great job of leading their Facebook group with jokes, and very occasionally discusses their products, also in a humorous and engaging way.
Seventh, keep it simple! An email should have one idea and one call to action. Not two, five or ten, not “buy, share, subscribe, reply”. Just one. Remember, people are overloaded, you need to clearly tell them what you expect them to do.
And lastly, if you don’t have anything to say – please, don’t! Internet is already full of useless crappy info, you are not doing any good to yourself if you are mailing people or posting on social media just for the sake of doing that. Be consistent, but only share something when you really have it.
PS I occasionally mentor start-ups and established brands on innovative non-invasive digital marketing. If you'd like to explore how non-invasive marketing could work for your business, please, get in touch. If you are a media person and want a comment on the subject, please do the same.
“We are addicted”, Schmidt say. "We are going through a cycle, having invented a new toy - smartphone". Using it increase our serotonine level and builds addiction. Think what happens to you if you forget your phone for a day! Yet, Schmidt isn't very upset about it. He believes that technology adds more to our lives and takes away from it, "and each phone has a switch off button".
A balanced lifestyle
Switching off is one of two Eric's personal recipes to have a more balanced digital lifestyle.
He switches off his phone for 90 minutes daily when he has dinner. He admits though that sometimes doesn’t manage to do so, and even sometimes when he does, he still feels anxious. He uses both an iphone and an android to compare the two (and of course promotes android as having a bigger screen), and switches off both.
He adds that according to the research, young users who are online all day switch their phones at night.
His second recipe is to call people more. He notices however is that people stoped answering his calls or returning them, and send messages or emails instead (remember, we are talking about the Google’s chairman!). His proposal is simple - when people call you, call them back! If they email you, email them back. This is something he stresses out a lot in his own communication.
What's the future?
According to Schmidt, soon your smartphone will be making suggestions about your lifestyle - for instance, telling you that you should really not go to the Italian restaurant, because the data shows you don’t feel well when you eat there.
People and computers, according to Schmidt, will be splitting more and more, specializing at what they are good at: people are good at being emotional, creative, charismatic, and asking questions. Computers are good at remembering things and answering questions, thus keeping a good balance. Machines, for instance, will never replace teachers in the classrooms, as the latter require charisma, creativity and intuition.
What's your take on that?
Will the future be as bright as described by Schmidt or do you envision any difficulties with it?
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Anastasia Dedyukhina is a professional coach and a pioneer of the Consciously Digital™ concept.
Having spent over 10 years and numerous hours in front of the screen promoting the benefits of digital for top media and advertising brands and witnessing hundreds of overstressed colleagues, Anastasia concluded she needed to change her lifestyle if she wanted to remain healthy.
She gave up her smartphone and now trains people on conscious use of digital technologies and claims she has never felt so productive and happy.
You can learn more about her path and background on her website, www.anastasia.tips.
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