22 Nov 2012

Ingress - Augmented Reality Game by Google

If you've been checking out all the latest Android apps lately, you've probably heard that Google—by the name of "Niantic Labs"—released a game of some kind. You might have also watched a trailer that depicted people discovering hidden energy fields within statues, landmarks, and artistic sculptures. You had no idea what the whole thing was about. Yet, you signed up for an invite anyway, because like any other weird Google product, you want in regardless of what it is. Well, I got my invite a couple days ago, and I'm happy to tell you, it's absolutely worth it.

"XM" are collected by walking in your surroundings

Ingress is a project of former Google director of geo John Hanke and his Niantic Labs, a start-up team wholly inside of Google. 

Ingress aims to get people out in the physical world, both for physical activity and to see their surroundings in a new way. Users can generate virtual energy needed to play the game by picking up units of “XM,” which are collected by traveling walking paths, like a real-world version of Pac-Man. Then they spend the energy going on missions around the world to “portals,” which are virtually associated with public art, libraries and other widely accessible places. While it seems like a relatively simple concept, and perhaps even downright common to players of MMORPGs like World of Warcraft, it's something that could only be done by Google, and goes far beyond simply a game. The point of Ingress is to get you out of the house and exploring your city.

Going on Missions through "Portals"
Of course, Google's not entirely without gain here. You can submit your own potential portal locations. Snap a photo of a candidate for a new place of interest, make sure GPS data is included, add a description and send it off. You can be pretty sure that Google's using that data to improve their other products, like Maps or maybe even Google Now. Advertising deals are also possible in the future if the game really kicks off. That’s because Ingress incorporates real physical sites and areas in the game. Maybe, portals in a coffee shop or a supermarket?

This isn't a casual game. If you want games for your couch, I'll point you to Angry Birds Star Wars or maybe Jetpack Joyride. Ingress is an experience. The whole point is to go out and find some portals, then, once you've established your presence, take a look at the real world. Enjoy some artwork, explore areas. Get inspired. Interact with people. Make new friends, even. May as well make use of that wonderful mind of yours and share it with others.

The Ingress app is available on Google Play, with an iOS version in the pipe. If you haven't signed up for an invite yet, you can do so here.

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