The kids at Kaneko’s 3D design and fabrication camp are ahead of the curve this week because many of them are already linking the gaming phenomenon Pokemon GO to its potential in 3D printing. This 8-day camp taught young people aged 12-15 basics in “Computer-Aided Design (CAD), 3D modeling, 3D printing, and fabrication.” While they had free reign to decide designs, many chose to physically “catch” Pokemon, a delight that is usually only virtual.
Pokemon GO is more than just a fad. Understanding how the game works can teach the player a lot about Augmented Reality (AR) technology and how it might be used in the real world going forward.
Finding physical Pokemon could introduce you to the 3D printing world around you.
3D printers around the world are using the game to show off their printing abilities by 3D printing Pokemon and leaving them at Pokestops (places where players gather to get prizes). So, if that park bench is a Pokestop, someone could print a little Pokemon creature and leave it with instructions on what to do next using the hashtag #pokeprint. This company is printing Pokemon and leaving them with coupons for their 3D printing services.
But Pokemon is simply child’s play when it comes to the intertwined future of AR and 3D printing. AR could be used to preview a 3D printed object where it intends to go. A doctor could design a specialized part of a pacemaker, hold a mobile device up to a patient’s chest to see if that part fits in real life, and print it on the spot. HP intends its mobile devices to allow users to photograph an object, manipulate it on a phone and print it in real life.
This might not be your only interaction with AR; it’s coming to the workplace.
What makes this game unique is its use of AR to power the game; players must be walking in the real world for the GPS to “walk” the character in the game. When a player gets near a Pokemon, their camera activates in their phone, placing the Pokemon onto the sidewalk in front of them, ready to be caught. This technology is being used for more than catching Pokemon, however. This technology can transform an airplane manufacturing floor, for example, when an engineer can hold their a mobile device up to a plane and “look through it” all the way to the engine they want to inspect. Now you can stop imagining because Lockheed Martin is using AR to assemble fighter jets.
You will understand why this game could change smartphone manufacturing.
If you start to see smartphones getting thicker, Pokemon GO might have something to do with it. If you play the game, you will understand just how much battery AR consumes because it encourages you to have your screen on all the time. Manufacturers are looking to designs of the past to give more battery life with less charging, so the more people use AR in gaming or manufacturing, it change how smartphones are designed.
Although it might be awhile before you can 3D print Pokemon on the spot where you catch them, technology is moving that way. Playing Pokemon GO could help you understand what new technologies manufacturers are employing. While you’re walking around trying to catch a Pikachu, spend some time thinking about new applications for the technology in your hand. It’s limitless.