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Niantic CEO Suggests VR Could Be a Problem For Society

The head of the company behind phenomenally successfully augmented reality (AR) game Pokemon Go believes that VR is so good that it may cause a problem for society.

John Hanke, CEO of Niantic was on stage for the Mixed Reality Summit, which formed part of the London Games Festival. Hanke said that he preferred to concentrate on the benefits of AR and was concerned about the seductive nature of virtual reality (VR) as a form of escape from the real world, reports GamesIndustry.biz.

He said as part of his speech: “My thing about VR is I’m afraid it can be too good, in the sense of being an experience that people want to spend a huge amount of time in,” he said. “I mean I already have concerns about my kids playing too much Minecraft, and that’s a wonderful game.

“We’re human beings and there’s a lot of research out there that shows we’re actually a lot happier when we get exercise, when we go outside – and outside in nature in particular. I think it’s a problem for us as a society if we forgo that and spend all of time in a Ready Player One-style VR universe.”

Ready Player One is a book and upcoming movie where millions of people choose to escape the collapsing of their dystopian society by logging in to a VR MMO called ‘The Oasis’ – Ready Player One is itself getting VR tie-in experiences.

Hanke went on to encourage developers to look more closely at the advantages of AR, particularly as a means to encourage players to be outside: “With AR, there’s a huge amount of potential to do things that really do have a positive impact on people,” said Hanke. “There is research about the health impact of Pokemon Go in particular but you can expand that to apply to all AR games. These games can encourage people to be more active than they would normally be. As a parent, part of my motivation for building this kind of game was to try and get my kids out of the house. I think there’s a ton of good that can be done.”

VR has, of course, been proven to have benefits all of its own, such as allowing chemotherapy patients to escape the hospital environment.

During the interview, Hanke went on to mention that Niantic were working on a new version of Ingress, a mobile game that formed the template for Pokemon Go. The new version would add new features and social options. It remains to be seen if the new version will add AR functionality.

VRFocus will keep you updates on Niantic and other AR projects.