Since its release Wednesday night, a new game, Pokémon Go has already gone on to become the top-grossing game in the three countries where it's currently available, adding nearly $11 billion to the value of Nintendo in less than a week.

The game, which "marries a classic 20-year old franchise with augmented reality," allows players to walk around "real-life" neighbourhoods while seeking "virtual Pokemon game characters" on their smartphone screens. Basically, a glorified fake scavenger hunt, similar to games like Ingress, etc.

In the United States, by July 8--just two days after its release--the game was installed on more than "5 percent of Android devices in the country, is now on more Android phones than dating app Tinder, has daily active users neck and neck with that of social network Twitter, and is also being played an average of 43 minutes a day--more time spent than on WhatsApp or Instagram."

"Some fans are now tweeting about playing the game while driving, and one user already reports, "Pokemon Go put me in the ER last night... Not even 30 minutes after the release...I slipped and fell down a ditch." In Australia the game has been leading some players into their local police station, and a woman in Wyoming reports that the game actually led her to a dead body floating in a river. One Pokemon Go screenshot has also gone viral. It shows a man capturing a Pokemon while his wife gives birth..."

The app's popularity has created lagging servers and forced the company Niantic to delay its international roll-out, meaning "Those who have already downloaded the game in the U.S., Australia and New Zealand can still play it, while those in the U.K., the Netherlands and other countries will have to wait."

Meanwhile, as people clearly can't wait, there has been a flood of downloads of unofficial copies of the game, exposing users to hackers who are circulating malicious versions of the game in order to backdoor their devices. "A remote access tool (RAT), known as DroidJack (or SandroRAT), has been added to some APK files, allowing third parties to gain full control over the users' mobile devices. Permissions granted then include: being able to directly call phone numbers, reading phone status' and identities, editing and reading text messages, sending SMS messages and recording audio."

It surely is spurious times...

UPDATE 13/7 -- Holocaust Museum to visitors: Please stop catching Pokemon here. "Playing the game is not appropriate in the museum, which is a memorial to the victims of Nazism," Andrew Hollinger, the museum's communications director, said. "We are trying to find out if we can get the museum excluded from the game."

UPDATE 14/7 -- "Law enforcement agencies around the globe are reminding citizens to obey trespassing laws and follow common sense when playing Pokemon Go. The new crazy-popular mobile game has led to some frightening results in recent days, such as the location of a dead body and robberies of players in Missouri. Now, San Francisco Police Department Captain Raj Vaswani warned in one online posting for players to "obey traffic laws, please. Do not run into trees, meters, and things that are attached to the sidewalk; they hurt," he said. "Do not drive or ride your bike / skateboard / hipster techie device while interacting with the app. Know where your kids are going when playing with the app, set limits on where they can go, so they don't keep going trying to get that Pokemon."

UPDATE 19/7 -- "Pokemon Go is now the biggest mobile game of all time in the United States. Not only has it surpassed Twitter's daily users, but it is seeing people spend more time in its app than in Facebook. The game also surpassed Tinder in terms of popularity (based on installations) on July 7th."

UPDATE 29/7 -- "It turns out that the stairs of the Internet Archive’s San Francisco headquarters are a PokéGym, a site where players can train their Pokémon and fight with other Pokémon. Fortunately, the Pokémon warriors aren’t rowdy or disruptive; they resemble somnambulistic zombies stumbling around under the control of their glowing smartphone screens."

UPDATE 8/8 -- How Pokemon Go will make money from you. "Augmented reality games like Ingress and Pokemon Go have the potential to open up a very lucrative new revenue stream based on the acquisition and sale of data – not just personal data, but aggregated spatial data about urban activity patterns. There has already been some controversy about the terms of service for players, which give Niantic access to all manner of data on their phones – including email contacts and social media profiles. This data could potentially be sold to third parties with an interest in targeted advertising. But it is not only individually identifiable personal data that interests Niantic. They are also interested in the spatial data that is generated by Pokemon Go players. As has been widely observed, playing the game rapidly drains phone batteries, because when the game is open your phone is constantly in touch with Niantic servers and providing location information about your movements. [...] Niantic is now harvesting "geospatial data" about millions of people's movements: about how far they are prepared to travel as part of game play; about the kinds of places they stop during game play; about the groups they travel with; and the connections they make during game play, and much more."

UPDATE 18/8 -- I recently discovered some interesting background to the company Niantic Inc.---the company that developed Pokémon Go and indeed Ingress. The company was formed in 2010 by the founder of Keyhole Inc., John Hanke as "Niantic Labs," being an internal startup within Google. Niantic left Google in October 2015.

Keyhole Inc., founded in 2001, was a "software development company specialising in geospatial data visualisation applications and was acquired by Google in 2004." Keyhole was backed by Sony venture capital, NVIDIA and the CIA's venture capital arm In-Q-Tel, with the majority of In-Q-Tel' funds coming from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. "Keyhole's marquee application suite, Earth Viewer, emerged as the highly successful Google Earth application in 2005; other aspects of core technology survive in Google Maps, Google Mobile and the Keyhole Markup Language. The name "Keyhole" is a homage to the KH reconnaissance satellites, the original eye-in-the-sky military reconnaissance system now some 50 years old."

Just like how now smartphones are the new "eye-in-the-sky" on the ground...

Feed the data of millions of people playing various computer games into AI machine learning and shaping algorythms... It's already happening to an extent:

"The latest computer games can be fantastically realistic. Surprisingly, these lifelike virtual worlds might have some educational value, too—especially for fledgling AI algorithms.

Adrien Gaidon, a computer scientist at Xerox Research Center Europe in Grenoble, France, remembers watching someone play the video game Assassins Creed when he realized that the game’s photo-realistic scenery might offer a useful way to teach AI algorithms about the real world. Gaidon is now testing this idea by developing highly realistic 3-D environments for training algorithms how to recognize particular real-world objects or scenarios.

The idea is important because cutting-edge AI algorithms need to feed on huge quantities of data in order to learn to perform a task. Sometimes, that isn’t a problem. Facebook, for instance, has millions of labeled photographs with which to train the algorithms that automatically tag friends in uploading images (see “Facebook Creates Software that Matches Faces Almost as Well as You Do”). Likewise, Google is capturing huge amounts of data using its self-driving cars, which is then used to refine the algorithms that control those vehicles.

But most companies do not have access to such enormous data sets, or the means to generate such data from scratch.

To fill in those gaps, Gaidon and colleagues used a popular game development engine, called Unity, to generate virtual scenes for training deep-learning algorithms—a very large type of simulated neural network—to recognize objects and situations in real images. Unity is widely used to make 3-D video games, and many common objects are available to developers to use in their creations.

A paper describing the Xerox team’s work will be presented at a computer vision conference later this year. By creating a virtual setting, and letting an algorithm see lots of variations from different angles and with different lighting, it’s possible to teach that algorithm to recognize the same object in real images or video footage. “The nice thing about virtual worlds is you can create any kind of scenario,” Gaidon says.

Gaidon’s group also devised a way to convert a real scene into a virtual one by using a laser scanner to capture a scene in 3-D and then importing that information into the virtual world. The group was able to measure the accuracy of the approach by comparing algorithms trained within virtual environments with ones trained using real images annotated by people. “The benefits of simulation are well known,” he says, “but [we wondered], can we generate virtual reality that can fool an AI?”

The Xerox researchers hope to apply the technique in two situations. First, they plan to use it to find empty parking spots on the street using cameras fitted to buses. Normally doing this would involve collecting lots of video footage, and having someone manually annotate empty spaces. A huge amount of training data can be generated automatically using the virtual environment created by the Xerox team. Second, they are exploring whether it could be used to learn about medical issues using virtual hospitals and patients.

The challenge of learning with less data is well known among computer scientists, and it is inspiring many researchers to explore new approaches, some of which take their inspiration from human learning (see “Can This Man Make AI More Human?”).

“I think this is a very good idea,” says Josh Tenenbaum, a professor of cognitive science and computation at MIT, of the Xerox project. “It’s one that we and many others have been pursuing in different forms.”

Source: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/601009/...

Image: Katina Michael 2015

So here we are in 2015, where one of the most respected and lead media agencies of Australia, the Australian Broadcasting Commission is encouraging children to switch their webcams on and record themselves to be alongside the characters "....not essential to the game but it allows you to enjoy an extra special experience."

Seriously?

If it wasn't that the fact that it is ABC app developers distributing the message I'm sure we would have the Australian Federal Police shutting it down and sending out a international trigger alert.

So lets take a step back and revisit the case where Matel thought it would be a great idea to build an SD camera into the womb or chest of a Barbie doll, USB plug in it's butt and encourage kids to upload their lap play!

The BBC brought this to the attention of the world in 2010 - http://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-11930727

The post on this harks back a bit but it's well worth revisiting what Associate Professor Katina Michael had to say at the time on the matter - https://goo.gl/uYQP8W

Both cases bring some serious considerations to the forefront for debate and these could be framed within the socio-ethical context.

Did the developers at the time of bringing these inventions to the marketplace, for even a minute, consider building in socio-ethical reasoning, using an adaptive framework that is cross-cultural, contextual to thwart the release of these technologies that are obviously in breach or likely to be in breach of national or international laws?

For that matter, does it cross the minds of engineers in their race to realise the dreams of the science fiction writers dystopia, that there are childrens well being at stake here? 

Unlikely.

So lets look at another case where this "load-your-yourself-for-further-fun' is occurring in other areas of the gaming world.

Namco Bandai Games Inc. has a similar such strategy employed on their sit-down car racing games that pepper many nations and entertainment venues.

The premise is that when you swipe your credit card to start the game it prompts you to use the accelerator pedal to "capture" a photo of your self seated, up close and portrait in style that is then loaded into the game interface as a player visual place holder. Each player is then able to "see" the others they are competing with on that bank of 5 gaming machines....but wait, there is more.

On the virtual car track there might be 20 or thirty cars racing around the track and each and every one of those cars also has images hovering above each car containing the facial features of children (players) who may have long left the game and in fact even left the premises. As you will see in image one (1) above I have depicted in true sousveillance style the general scale and composition as to what is captured of the player.

In the other photos you will identify children peering up into the camera which proceeds to take up to ten images at a time and then present them back to the player to select from.

In essence, the gaming machine is a networked device (internet enabled) that for all intents and purposes does nothing more than take a series of photos of the player and then they use that for the entertainment of the others seeing themselves and in competition racing against each other - literally.

It begs the question of the provider, summed up here as a series of questions unanswered:

  • Where was the privacy declaration that childrens images were NOT being stored for the re-marketing of the game to players in new and prospective proximal, walk by marketing?
  • Are images captured of innocent people who are captured amongst these high definition depictions of players seated used also and elsewhere?
  • Are these games networked and the images being transmitted across the internet to other gaming machines and therefore peoples identity being used to market this and potentially many other products based on age, geolocation, facial identity and any number of other body sensing capabilities built into these machines?
  • When the game is "over" can we then be assured as a consumer that our facial identity will not re-appear and be used for further marketing of the game?

In conclusion, we live in a society that has become accustomed to the unanswerable, where our basic rights as a human to feel our way forward using our instinct has been denied. Our proximity to everyday locations such as shopping centres have become a multiplicity of feeds, or re-picturing, of an imbued distrust of whereabouts never mind whom we are.

We have accepted that even a simple children's game is now potentially an identify harvesting activity and for the convenience we are promised upgrades and further levels of convenience.

The Australian Broadcast Commission has clearly a lot to answer to, but again, to what degree are such breaches of a socio-ethical consideration amongst those who would argue that it is a matter of socio-technical convenience, entertainment and choice that governs what is on-sold despite all the claims that "your data is safe with us".

Clearly, we are descending deeper into the night garden with it's myriad of murky monikers that evade ethical design and thwart useful privacy assured user interfaces.

"Zoe Quinn doesn't just make heartfeltexperimental games like Depression Quest. She's also pretty set on becoming a cyborg, judging from the cyberpunk as hell implants she's gotten over the last couple of years.

(Update: full disclosure, Quinn and I are friends.)

On her left ring finger, she has a magnet which is coated in silicone. It lets her feel magnetic fields, wires, and obviously, pick up some metal objects. (And no, she can't mess up hard-drives with it—it's not big enough.) 

More recently, she got a NTAG216 chip implant on a hand as well, which lets her do...well, whatever she programs it to do.

"I'm not sure what all the possibilities are," Quinn wrote on her blog. "I can tell you that I'm planning to make a game that integrates it, and I can lock and unlock my phone with it super easy as well as transmit data to other compatible NFC devices like Android phones."

Thanks KMA.

Yet more evidence that online MMRPG games are about more than just havin' fun.

But beyond the privacy concerns there are real concerns for physical harm as I noted in a Conversation piece last year.

 

This from a user:

"Well, one of biggest the dangers of Ingress is driving or stepping into harm's way while playing the game, and I know of at least one nasty car accident. And then there is the risk of losing your job or relationship or use of your thumb due to its addictive properties..."

Of course- we augment more than we can cope with and we might end up dead. 

Question: anyone want to talk about liability?

Source here

For the full article visit here

Posted
AuthorKatina Michael

This morning I listened to the Dr Katherine Albrecht Show (see archive of 27 February 2014). Katherine was discussing the impact of video gaming on children. I watched this clip as a result of the program she aired.

Yesterday, Dr Albrecht appeared on George Noury's Coast to Coast program (see technology update here) and discussed the 'I want my iPad' phenomenon in toddlers. Here is another video she pointed to:

And another... She maintained that she would generally NOT wish for listeners to view these kinds of clips online but in this instance, it was the only way to raise awareness to an epidemic occurring in our society.

This phenomenon is a known phenomenon. See more. So what are we doing about it? Gathering the evidence and putting our kids online so that our Youtube hits increase ten-thousand fold?

I feel so sick in linking these videos of these kids up online in the uberveillance.com environment. But I am calling people out there to wake up to the what is occurring in most of our households. 

What is the answer? 

Better parenting?

Better friends and extended support groups?

Zero tolerance on screen time for toddlers?

Better education?

Schools saying 'no' to technology in the classroom?

Are we adding fuel to the fire?

 

What is blatantly obvious to me is that we need more research into SOLUTIONS. We can't have kids crying like this and profusely suffering anguish, and we cannot have parents surviving this kind of daily misery... and most of all we need to feedback these problems to developers... we cannot point the finger at Apple or Google alone... we need to point the finger at ourselves... society... yes 'we' perpetuate the problem. We can plead ignorance but we all know someone going through this- a child, a grandchild, a niece or nephew, a friend or a neighbour... in fact, we might be even going through it ourselves!

 

Where have we gone wrong?

Beyond that obvious point?

Why are the parents of these poor children putting their kids up online for everyone to comment on? Are they deep down seeking help? Do they want their prayers answered? Do they want to make their kids well?

We cannot claim ALL of these children appearing in thousands of uploads (just search online) are due to autism or some other mental illness or developmental problems! And if we claim that, are computers somehow contributing to these developmental issues?

The other thing that becomes apparent to me is the use of the mobile phone video camera as a weapon. Have we become so heartless, that we begin now to film these traumatic events and post them online for others to comment on. You were right on the mark Dr Albrecht. This is evil. Instead of going over and gently comforting our kids to return to their senses, we take out the camera to record the reality-tv... and so our children are now a part of a global theatre!

In previous posts, I have discussed the importance of NOT capturing these moments so we can allow our children to grow and develop, and not be held accountable for things they did as children. MG Michael and I have discussed the limits of watching. With Christine Perakslis we have also written an extensive book chapter on veillance (in press)! 

Can you imagine being one of the kids in this video? How would that make you feel 5 years on, 10 years on, 20 years on, or when you first discovered it was online for all to see on Youtube? Would you be typecast for life?

 

Everyone, we have to wake up! I am not being alarmist... if your heart doesn't feel sad over these videos then I personally don't know what to say...

And then we are contemplating taking Glass into the classroom? Right-o! Don't you think these tantrums don't happen at school? Will our children become "objects" not just "subjects" in the classroom? Let us tread VERY carefully. We can't use our kids as experiments. We need to think ethics.

And it is not just children that react this way... no... no... adults too, have this reaction but just convey it in a different way. See my article on high-tech lust!

We need to take the negative social implications of computers more seriously. Yes, some guys out there claim that computers can help kids... all my fellow collaborators and I are claiming is that the opposite is also true. Let's not be so narrowsighted. This is our future we are talking about!