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Pokémon Go and the demon-haunted world

Mike Elgan | July 25, 2016
The world of mixed reality will be populated by countless 'spirits, demons, angels, ghosts and gods'

Pokémon Go is just the beginning. The children's content industry will go nuts with mixed-reality games, stories and all manner of "invisible friends." Many of these will be location-based.

As children walk around, they'll see animated characters and virtual beings everywhere (including, inevitably, Ronald McDonald), as long as they're wearing their kid-friendly mixed-reality goggles.

As kids get older, they'll chat with 3D video avatars of their friends, which will appear in place right in front of them.

Adults will be attended to by virtual assistants that will take human form, but only we will see those assistants, following us around like ghosts and feeding us useful information all day. Every restaurant, park, building, business and historic point of interest will have virtual scenes and information available to anyone who wants to see and hear it.

Mixed reality is the future for experiential marketers. Having used up just about every physical surface available to hawk products, advertisers will aggressively populate the nonphysical world with content. You know, like "Jaws 19" marketing in Back to the Future II.

And here's an inevitability that will give you the chills: You know those impromptu memorials that grieving loved ones create by the side of the road where someone died, usually in a car accident? It's only a matter of time before they go virtual.

I believe shrines will be constructed in mobile location-based mixed-reality -- the same kind of technology used in Pokémon Go. Anyone who cares enough to download any of hundreds of future memorial apps will be able to see these memorials all over the place. They'll inevitably feature hologram-like videos of the deceased, standing there waving as ghostly apparitions.

Roadside memorials will be similar in concept to the ghosts conjured up by Edward Norton in the brilliant 2006 movie The Illusionist. Or maybe they'll be more like the Tupac hologram at Coachella Live in 2012.

Either way, the dead will rise and walk among us.

The ghost concept is part of a worldview called dualism, which is associated with the French philosopher René Descartes.

I suspect most living humans intuitively subscribe to dualism. The idea is that each person has two parts -- a physical body and a spirit, which is nonphysical. A "ghost" is produced, according to this idea, when the physical body dies and the spirit lingers.

Dualism requires the attendant belief that living humans have a separable "spirit" or "ghost." And so it will be in the Pokémon-haunted world -- the future of mixed- and augmented-reality.

When kids get home from school, they'll be able to see a hologram of mom reminding them that they have karate practice that afternoon and that dad will be picking them up at 4 p.m. Which raises a disturbing question: What's the difference between mom's mixed-reality hologram and mom's "spirit"?


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