Niantic Labs’ John Hanke will be delivering a fireside chat for AR/VR day (augmented reality/virtual reality) at GamesBeat 2016. Get a ticket here!
Pokémon Go is a phenomenally popular mobile game about going outside and catching digital monsters in the real world, but some glitches and bugs have made it needlessly difficult. Thankfully, plenty of other people are stepping in to fix things themselves.
Developer Niantic’s Google Maps-powered monster-catching game includes a “Nearby” feature that should tell you how far away one of the virtual critters are from your physical location, but it isn’t working (which is different from the oft-offline servers). When it was functioning, this proximity meter would show you close Pokémon and between zero and three footprints to indicate how close or far away they are. For the last week, every Pokémon always has had the maximum of three footprints no matter the distance between you and their location. This has led to mobile apps like PokeDetector, websites like PokeHuntr, and Twitter accounts like UltimatePokeTrackers popping up to help out desperate trainers who are spending their time with the top-grossing app in the $36.9 billion mobile-gaming market.
UltimatePokeTrackers on Twitter is like a news-alert system. Right now, it is only working in New York City, and it will tweet whenever a relatively rare monster pops up somewhere in the five boroughs. For example, here’s a tweet from last night revealing the appearance of a much-desired Snorlax:
— UltimatePokeTrackers (@PokeTrackerNYC) July 27, 2016
PokeHuntr enables you to put in an address of your location, and then it will generate a map showing the availability of all Pokémon in your area. It even has a timer that will show how long each creature will last before it despawns. This is useful for planning trips before you head out for a walk.
Finally, PokeDetector is an app that tracks your location and will send your phone a notification when a pocket monster appears. If you pay $3 for the premium version, you can set it to only tell you when certain Pokémon get close. The app hasn’t always worked for me. It requires constant restarts to ensure the tracking and notifications actually show up, but it has helped me catch several rare creatures that I would’ve missed otherwise.
PokeDetector even works with Android Wear smartwatches, which means you can get updates without having to hold out your phone nonstop.
All of these programs use the Pokémon Go API (application-protocol interface) to get up-to-date information. This means it’s not crowdsourced from other players and is instead giving you the same information the game gets when it spawns a critter. This also means that these tools are technically considered cheating, and could lead to you getting banned. But only PokeDetector connects to your actual Pokémon Go account. I’ve asked Niantic if it blames to ban people using these kinds of apps, and we’ll let you know if we get an answer. But, to be safe, I’m using a dummy account, and you probably should as well.