Imagination is one of humankind’s most powerful tools. We’ve all experienced those moments when your imagination has been sparked into life – by a book, a game, a song, a conversation, even a word – and your mind is suddenly full of ideas, images, sounds, people or places that weren’t there a minute before. Your mind’s eye takes over, and makes things that only exist in your imagination feel as real – maybe even more real – than the world around you.
Technology, and the content it serves to us, are sometimes accused of being the enemy of imagination. They do all the imagining for us; they dumb everything down; they show rather than inspire. We watch, and we move on. When something takes root in our imagination, we take it with us through our day – but so much content is instantly disposable precisely because it shows too much.
At its best, however, technology can open new windows onto our world that simply weren’t accessible before. By giving us just a glimpse, it can make us believe in things that are invisible, and spark our imagination in new and incredibly powerful ways.
If you want to see this in action, simply introduce a child to Pokémon GO and watch as they discover a new world that exists in the space around them. Once they see a Charmander, Drowzee or Rhyhorn in their house, on their street or in their local park, their imagination takes over. The phone is where it starts, but once it goes away the idea that a Pikachu could be around every corner, or sitting, right now, in their classroom, has become their thrilling new reality.
This is the power of imagination laid bare, and it’s a beautiful thing, sparked into life by the combination of geolocation and augmented reality. Our phones stop being merely screens, distracting us from the world around us, and become magic windows onto hidden worlds.
Used like this, technology is the enabler of imagination, not its enemy. In the face of justified concerns about excess screentime, we have to ensure that technology is a positive, healthy addition to modern life – and this is exactly how we do it. Getting people out into the world, making phones as unobtrusive as possible – things we look through, not at – and helping us and our children be more creative, not less.
Niantic, the developers of Pokémon GO, work on the principle that “when the digital world and reality come together, something magical happens.” They deserve great credit, not just for creating a great game, loved by millions around the globe, but for the way it fires our imagination so vividly.
Like them, we are creating experiences that use technology to get people moving, coming together to connect with the world around them. Technology at its very best. Just imagine that.