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This Pokémon Go update is showing us why ARCore is great

Pokémon Go has become more lifelike with its new AR+ mode — but you'll need an ARCore-enabled smartphone to play it.

Published onOctober 12, 2018

Pokemon Go render image of a Pikachu inside a smartphone viewfinder.
  • Niantic is rolling out a new Pokémon Go mode designed for ARCore-enabled smartphones.
  • AR+ uses ARCore to better place Pokémon in the real world and to help them understand the movements of trainers.
  • It comes with a new catching mechanic whereby you’ll have to sneak up on Pokémon.

Niantic is updating Pokémon Go with a new gameplay mode for ARCore-enabled handsets. Called AR+, the new upgrade brings significant improvements to the way Pokémon behave and are caught.

AR+ has been in development since last year but Niantic only officially announced the mode on its blog recently. Outside AR+ mode, Pokémon aren’t set on a fixed point in the environment and have no understanding of how that relates to you as the trainer (it’s a tragedy, really). With AR+, however, Pokémon will appear to be fixed at your current location — you’ll be able to walk around them — and they’ll know where you are and how fast you are moving towards them.

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This latter point is key to how the new catching mechanic works. Instead of the normal method of nabbing Pokémon, which relies on how you flick the smartphone display, AR+ mode means you’ll have to approach Pokémon carefully. They’ll come with an awareness meter that fills up as you approach; catching a Pokémon while the meter is low will give you a chance to get an Expert Handler bonus for more XP and Stardust.

It’s a smart idea for Go as it should make the experience more immersive and give the Pokémon a greater weight and permanence. AR+ is likely to be a little more finicky than previous Pokémon catching, though — you’ll have to pay greater attention to lighting conditions and how you hold your handset (Niantic has more tips on its announcement page). Still, it seems like a great step for Pokémon Go and for ARCore at large.

App developers have the power to make or break new technologies and whether they’ll see long-term support. ARCore shows potential, but the tech has barely developed in the last year or so since its reveal. Given that Pokémon Go is one of the biggest adverts for AR technology, and ARCore is Google’s biggest AR technology product, it makes perfect sense that they’re now being used together. I just hope ARCore continues to be developed and updated so it doesn’t crash before it’s even taken off.

The AR+ update is rolling out now and you’ll need the ARCore app, and a compatible handset, to run it. Here’s the current list of them and more are on the way.

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