Tag Archives: IRL

The Internet Response League: Pokemon Division?

 

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Pokemon GO is an interesting phenomenon – it is extremely relevant to the ideas posted on this blog, and to gamification in general. To start, the gameplay involves going outside, physically tracking down pokemon (think digital animals), and then catching them. The simple fact of compelling video gamers to go outside and exercise has astounded many people.

The game is based on Augmented Reality (AR), which is a technology in its infancy. The focus is on the graphical overlay, which takes imagery/text/animation and superimposes it upon your surroundings via a camera. Apps were created that allow you to view advertising and menus outside of restaurants, translate text in real time,  and even track down star constellations that may be hiding from your eye. While Pokemon Go also relies heavily on overlaying pokemon onto your surroundings, I believe that the highly overlooked feature in most AR apps is the GPS tracking your location.

If you play the game, you quickly realize that how well you do depends on your location in the world (and the cellular data usage around you – to the dismay of many a Pokemon trainer living outside a city). Even more so, the Pokemon exist outside in the world in distinct locations, forcing players to track them down physically using the Pokemon Go app as a navigation system.

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The map of your surroundings that Pokemon Go utilizes is actually the Google Maps engine.

So to recap – if you peel back the layer of Pokemon, this game simply has people searching for points on a map. The simplicity of it is truly a marvel, while the potential to expand upon it is almost limitless. While technology like this can certainly cause trouble, as I’ll explain a bit later, it also has the potential for tremendous good. Read the following hypothetical example:

A fire breaks out in a town, and the local fire department needs pictures of it as rapidly as possible so that it can plan a more directed response. So it asks the creators of Pokemon Go to spawn a certain rare Pokemon, let’s say Pikachu, at the fire. All the nearby Pokemon trainers are then alerted of the Pikachu’s presence and hurry to the scene of the fire to catch it. The images, or even video, that the AR system on each player’s phone is utilizing, is then live streamed to the fire department, who would then use the data to create a 3D model of the scene of the fire as it’s happening.

This example is surely outlandish, not only because a Pikachu would have no reason to hang out in a burning building (a Charizard maybe more likely), but also more importantly because it would obviously pose a large hazard to oblivious Pokemon GO players. It’s been stated on this blog that if the in-game reward is large enough, dedicated players might be willing to do almost anything to obtain it (braving a fire is probably only even a slight exaggeration). Combined with GPS technology, what you have is a powerful tool that incentivizes people to travel to certain locations. Now here’s another, safer, example of how this idea could be utilized:

A local group has organized a day for volunteers to gather and clean up the town park. This group however has also asked the creators of Pokemon GO to spawn more pokemon at the park than usual on this day. Surely this will attract any serious pokemon trainers in the neighborhood. And while they are already incentivized to remain in the area, the efforts of the local group can hopefully also sway them to pitch in and clean up the park a bit during their stay. Perhaps this local group can even work out a deal where they are authorized by the Pokemon Go creators to hand out in-game rewards, such as items or experience.

In the more distant future we’ll even get points for each individual piece of trash we pick up, but until that technology arrives I think cases like the above would prove fascinating interactions. Many people who have played the game have definitely had similar concepts cross their mind in relation to local businesses – more specifically the idea that a company can pay the creators of Pokemon GO to generate Pokemon at their establishments or events in order to attract more customers. While the capitalistic aspect will hopefully garner more interest and support for the technology, the potential social good applications are unique in that they have a chance to revolutionize community volunteering and engagement.

You don’t have to play Pokemon Go to observe the herds of children, teenagers, and even adults standing around in public spaces playing this game. Not only does this simple fact alone make these spaces safer for all, but imagine now if the game asked these people to interact further. What if collaboration, for a wide number of plausible reasons, on a tiny local scale, could be incentivized on a grand scale using AR game technology? One minute you are playing Pokemon Go, the next you have a met a stranger in your neighborhood and are planning ways to practice first aid, or even actively providing aid to an individual while an ambulance is on route. All in the name of advancing one’s self in an imaginary world. One could picture governments around the world  experimenting with AR as a means for civic duties in the future.

Unfortunately, another way in that governments will be interested in this technology, but most likely for good reason, is regulation. The ability to direct the movements of people in the real world is a serious responsibility. Already cases have sprung up of people trespassing, crashing their vehicles, and even being targeted for robbery while playing Pokemon GO. Even if the Pokemon are placed responsibly, certain users of the app will abuse that to commit theft or even worse, as popular spots are noted equally on everyone’s screen. What form this type of regulation will take shape is anyone’s guess, but there certainly will be plenty of trial and error. Even at the time of writing, the feature in Pokemon GO that allowed you to actively track Pokemon has been disabled (it wasn’t working correctly), and so players are now simply forced to randomly come across Pokemon. A new tracking system is being tested, but perhaps the change was made as a result of the developers fearing lawsuits? While one would think it is ultimately the player’s responsibility to avoid trouble, as these AR games become more and more engaging, this assumption will certainly become blurred.

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The pokemon appear in the “real world”.

The last point that needs to be made about Pokemon GO is it’s use of popular culture to achieve success. The game which preceded Pokemon GO, Ingress, has gained much less popularity, despite being almost the same game but with much more features. Could it be that popular fantasy worlds have a growing influence on the public acceptance of a technology?

In the late 1990’s Pokemon was a cultural phenomenon among children and teenagers. Now most of these individuals are adults and their interest in the series has been newly rekindled by Pokemon GO. It has even attracted the attention of many individuals who never gave it a chance the first time (or are now forced to chaperone their children around as they capture pokemon). One can imagine that in another 20 years that the cultural saturation of Pokemon will be almost complete, meaning that the rewards for continuing to play the game will become more and more relevant in the world.

Imagine a future where people, who don’t have the the time to go hunting pokemon themselves, actively buy rare pokemon from others to complete a collection, for battle, or even simply as a status symbol. Others could ideally be able to make a living by volunteering locally, or better yet travelling the world volunteering, and engaging in the global pokemon trade (a dream for any person who has played a Pokemon game).

Lastly, Pokemon is but one example. How will popular fantasy worlds such as Star Wars, Warcraft, Marvel, or countless others affect technological and social progress in the future? The potential for good is tremendous if handled responsibly. Now imagine this final Pokemon Go application:

An earthquake has just struck and people are in need of help. People who are at the scene and are unharmed can assist by scouting around – taking pictures and video (and capturing pokemon). This can then be streamed to volunteers sitting at home, who identify damaged buildings and infrastructure (receiving items or experience). The resulting analyzed video/imagery is sent to local emergency relief forces, who then in turn ask local pokemon trainers, perhaps trained in first aid, to assist nearby first responders or even directly rescue people (gaining large amounts of experience or even rare pokemon). In the months following the earthquake, local trainers can volunteer in reconstruction, humanitarian aid, or disaster mitigation and preparedness efforts (gaining more experience, items, or pokemon).

Pokemon Go players would not only be actively helping out communities, but also would be acquiring valuable new skills, either through volunteering, or as a prerequisite to doing so. Rather than simply seen as people loitering in public places, players could be seen as upstanding citizens among their neighbors, who devote their time and energy not only to a fantasy world – but to the bettering of the real world as well. All it would take is a bit social ingenuity, perhaps some government or economic incentivization, and of course the continued success of a particular Japanese cartoon world.

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How will AR look in 20 years?

If you’re interested in any of the ideas on this blog, have interesting ideas of your own, are interested in collaborating, or simply want to say hi, please feel free to reach out to us at contact@internet-response-league.com

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Internet Response League 2.0

Dear gamers,

As we wrote in our previous post, we have a change in store for the Internet Response League. Originally, IRL was conceptualized as an in-game humanitarian aid volunteering platform, that would utilize player rewards to encourage participation. As we see now though, this goal in its entirety is a bit too ambitious.

The idea of housing the IRL platform within games is impractical and unnecessary. Successfully implemented, it would only save the users small amounts of time and effort, yet the trade-offs are steep, mainly for any of IRL’s potential partners.

Video game worlds are specifically crafted to be fun, interesting, and engaging fantasy environments, that keep players coming back for whatever reason. Introducing an outside application, especially one that exposes users to real-world disaster situations, would largely break the fantasy, something which game developers try very hard not to do.  

At first we believed that we could somehow leave the fantasy intact by toying with the game lore or by slightly modifying the humanitarian tasks (see the Eve Online case). We’ve since realized this to be very challenging. The amount of modification needed to have the tasks fit would distort them to a point where the work would no-longer be helpful to aid organizations. Perhaps other types of micro-tasks may yet be implemented successfully (see the work being done by MMOS), but in today’s world global disasters simply have no place inside of people’s play time.

So, we have a solution:

We will modify our website to house the Internet Response League platform, where users will be able to volunteer their time digitally in humanitarian scenarios. We will find game developer partners who will pledge rewards to the users of the IRL platform, who in turn will be able to represent their favorite game.

With this plan, we won’t be intruding on anyone’s play time. Instead we will welcome everyone to come volunteer as they choose, allowing them to gain rewards in their favorite game in the process. We will do our best to spread the word, but we also think that game developers will naturally like to increase their representation, encouraging their users to help out.

We will start building our site and implementing the volunteer tasking system with the help of our partner MicroMappers. See the below mock-up for an idea of how we envision the main page. If you’re interested in helping, feel free to contact us at contact@internet-response-league.com.

Many thanks for reading!

IRLMainPage

Coconut Challenge + Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby

MicroMappers is launching its expedition to the Philippines. The purpose of this deployment is to assess the impact of Typhoon Haiyan on coconut trees (over 30 million were destroyed by the Typhoon) and thus the impact on local livelihoods. The effort involves using the Aerial Clicker to tag damaged and healthy coconut tree trunks. This will help fight infestations that could potentially wipe out the nation’s entire coconut industry.

In addition, directly after this coconut challenge, MicroMappers will be switching gears to another deployment, dealing with the impact of Super Typhoon Hagupit/Ruby on the Philippines. This typhoon, equally as strong as Typhoon Haiyan, is currently slated to hit the shores Saturday local time. Humanitarian organizations around the world are gearing up in preparation, and there will be multitudes of ways for the digital volunteer to help out.

These two deployments are exactly what the IRL idea focuses on, so any help will directly benefit the development of our concept.

Here is a link to the MicroMappers website, where you can find more information:

http://micromappers.org/

If you are interested in volunteering, here is a direct link to the Aerial Clicker:

http://clickers.micromappers.org/app/MM_RemoteSenseClicker/

The Youtube video on the site will give you a description of how the clicker works, and you can also hit the tutorial on the top right corner at any time.

Questions/comments regarding these deployments or anything else are always welcome. Any volunteering would be deeply appreciated. Thanks!

IRL in Search of Artists

“A call goes out around the world. A call to those doing epic quests, to those farming gold, to those ranking up, to those refreshing a website, and to those endlessly shooting each other. A symbol appears in the sky. It is a red cross, but with white lines on each arm, like a d-pad. This message is a rallying call to suspend the fun, for in real life disaster has occurred, and it is up to the denizens of the internet to step forth and help relieve the suffering. Don your armor and let the epic theme into your ears. We need your help to find the weak and give them direction, to locate hazards and mark them brightly, and to steer brave rescuers towards the innocent victims. We need you to join the Internet Response League.”

We believe that one of the cornerstones of creating a successful Internet Response League is to create compelling fantasy dialogue with our members. Video games live in the realm of gripping storylines, fantastic graphics, and epic rewards. While taking an abstract concept and creating fiction is definitely a challenge, we believe that there is definitely a way that the Internet Response League can implement these ideals.

This post is a call to all the talented individuals out there willing to help the cause. We are in need of stories, concept art, and music. The Internet Response League is a call to all able individuals to take arms and help a cause, a crusade if you let it be. Like organizations of the long past, the Internet Response League can come to represent an era. In order to so successfully, its story needs to be rich and fulfilling. A common symbol can help create this result.

IRLicon

The IRL cross, the red cross with the white stripes on each arm, should be the cornerstone of the movement. Armor, mounts, banners, and logos implementing the IRL cross can stir the hearts players in every game across the internet. Then to match, a story of epic heroes forging a union defending the weak and a theme song to match national anthems. Together the end result can become a force that could change the world. All that is needed now is grandiose imagination.

We hope the Internet Response League to become the intrigue of our day. We will be reaching out to art communities all over in hopes to garner support. If you know of anyone who fits in this category, please let them know. We want artists to draw their characters emblazoned with the IRL cross, musicians to translate the cause into song, and story-writers to chronicle the awaiting tales. We want this effort will be shared by the world, as is the entirety of the IRL. Every individual contribution will create a new vision of the idea, and will be rewarded greatly. As in history, with grand ideas comes great wealth. What kind, only time will tell.

IRL Plugin Demo

As the work on the Internet Response League Plugin continues, we’ve decided to record a video demo, showcasing some of the ideas that we’ve had in development. The video is below for you viewing pleasure.

Please note that this is still a work in progress.If you are interested in helping out, feel free to contact us at our email (contact@internet-response-league.com) or join us at our Google Group (https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/internet-response-league).

IRL Moving Forward

As the Internet Response League (IRL) begins to gain traction amongst the gaming community, we hope that our next steps will draw in as many game developers as possible. Our goal for this project is to create an open community of gamers and game developers aligned with the common cause of helping out in disaster response and creating a socially responsible gaming world.

First things first: the response amongst the gaming community thus far has been excellent and we hope to continue the growth of interested gamers. Our ultimate goal is to reach the imaginations of game developers, and while contacting them directly is one route, we believe that rallying gamers to the cause first will create better results later on. So please do share this initiative with your gamer friends far and wide!

Additionally we have created an official IRL Google Group, to create a public conversation for the project. All are welcome to come and join. We plan on having regular discussions on how we can move this project forward and in what ways it would be the most beneficial to those involved. Below is a link to the Google Group:

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/internet-response-league

The first topic that we’ll be discussing is what an average disaster scenario would look like in game. We want game developers to have the freedom of being able to implement IRL into their game platforms however they please, but there are basics that will be required. In essence, these will be: A) Notifying players when there is a disaster occurring and asking them if they would like to help out, B) Creating an ‘area’ for gamers to be able to tag disaster photos, and possibly C) Asking players to sign-up/login to receive rewards.

To begin with, we’ll focus on tagging Instagram photos. Once we’ve worked out this process, it will be easy to expand the tagging to other social & multimedia content.

So now to take a look at how IRL could look in game, lets use World of Warcraft as an example again to walk you through these basic requirements (please excuse the shoddy MS paint skills). First, the moment that a disaster strikes, everyone currently playing the game and those logging on from that point on will receive notification of the event. Only users who have opted in to receive these “alerts” will see them. The message will give a brief description of what has happened, and will ask players to help out with the tagging.

A message like this would greet you upon logging in. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

A message like this would greet you upon logging in. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

In game notification should have settings so as to not annoy players. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

In game notifications would have settings, with the ability to be disabled, so as to not annoy players. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

Accepting this invitation will take players to “disaster tagging area” (screen). People will be able to tag as many pictures as they like and exit back to the game as they please. For example, in the screenshot below, gamers are asked to tag the level of damage they see in an Instagram picture. The tagging data will be sent to IRL and be used to create a live crisis map of disaster damage for disaster responders.

A rough concept of what the tagging screen may look like. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

A rough concept of what the tagging screen may look like. (Screenshot is from World of Warcraft and has been altered)

From a technical standpoint, we’d like to develop a standard IRL web plugin that gaming companies can easily insert into their games. This would allow us to push pictures to the plugin (like the above picture) and in return get the tagging data pushed back to us for rapid damage assessment analysis. Using this plugin, we could also keep track of each gamer’s tagging totals and credit the players accordingly. In short, we want plenty of room for stylization to allow for unique fits with individual games’ story, etc. We believe that the simplicity of such a system should be a huge selling point to developers, considering all of the positives that are associated with it.

The second topic that we will be discussing is the possibility of having a set of armor unique to the top contributors of IRL. The goal is to have a unique point system for people helping out in disaster response, which for now we will name the “IRL Score”. This score will simply count the amount of Instagram pictures that a player has tagged and will exist outside of individual games. This means that if a person does plenty of IRL work in one game, the standing with IRL will carry over to every other participating game. This score would then translate to rewards that players can redeem in-game.

Players who attain a high enough “IRL Score” would be able to gain access to unique suits of armor specific to the Internet Response League, including the logo and color scheme. For this to work, our supposed graphics designers would have to work very closely with game developers to ensure that this could be implemented with each game’s unique visual style and gameplay. Considering that not every game has armor in it, creativity will go a long way, using skins, banners, and maybe even custom units as rewards. Additionally there would be a few different tiers of these rewards depending on how devoted to the IRL you are, giving the most humanitarian gamers out there the ability to wear really cool armor, despite the game that they are playing. Remember how powerful Bono’s Red Campaign was. Could we design a distinct Red and White Armor with the same kind of brand power?

redcampaign

There are definitely some nuances that would need to be addressed. Firstly, this armor should only be cosmetic, so that it does not affect the balance of the respective games. Second, we will want only the top IRL supporters to be able to wear the highest tiers of the armor, meaning that the vast majority of IRL users will have to settle for an IRL emblem, player title, or something of a lesser nature than the armor. The idea here is to cement the Internet Response League and its most dedicated members amongst more serious gaming communities. As stated earlier, the “IRL score” will simply count the amount of pictures that a player has tagged, and only those who have a score within a certain top percentage will be able to wear the armor. Yes, this also means that if you quit participating while at the top, you will lose the opportunity to wear the armor. Those who don the armor would hopefully become a sort of prestigious group of gamers who not only want to help in the real world, but also want to take it to the next level.

Gamers tend to be competitive, so we expect that this proposed setup will not deter anyone; the end result will still remain helping out disaster victims. Plus individual games / game platforms will ideally offer their own rewards for the work to keep players interested. Finally, your “IRL Score” could also be used to show prospective schools/employers how many volunteer hours you have accumulated in total, so that value created will be immense!

If you are a game developer / graphics designer, or are simply interested in this idea, please stay tuned to our Google Group for this idea. Amongst these two topics mentioned here, there will be many more to come as we collectively attempt to push the Internet Response League into the hearts of gamers around the world. Additionally, we will be exploring the possibility of using kickstarter in the future to fund a game developers & graphics designer(s) to create the IRL image tagging plugin and armor for us, so definitely stay tuned!

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/internet-response-league

See you there!