Speaking on a panel discussing augmented reality at TechCrunch's Disrupt event, Niantic CTO Phil Keslin said that audio cues would mean players wouldn't have to awkwardly hold their phone up while interacting with games like GO.
"I can tell you from experience that people don't do this," he said, mimicking how people playing an AR game would hold their phones. "It's very unnatural. It makes them look like a total doofus if they're doing it for an extended period of time," he added.Considering alternative solutions, Keslin suggested audio could be integrated into AR experience. "Audio is different," he said. "You can hide that." Most people today walk around with their audio earbuds stuck in their ears all the time, he noted. "Nobody knows that they're being augmented then."
"In Pokémon GO, the only time they really use it is to share their encounter with the Pokémon. To take that one picture, which is natural…. Everybody takes a picture, and then they're done. It's not walking around the world with the phone in front of their face," he said.
Keslin later explained that audio was something Niantic had toyed with when they were building Ingress, a location-based, augmented reality game considered a precursor to Pokémon GO.
Audio integration was considered in a variety of ways, according to the CTO, for example, suggesting to players which location they should visit, or having their phone call them with further clues when they reached a waypoint. Another possibility was combining audio with a phone's sensors, like an accelerometer, to know what a person was doing. "AR is not just visual," he added.
Asked if audio clues would ever come to Pokémon GO, Keslin told TechCrunch: "Maybe. Or maybe we'd use it in other games," he said, smiling. "We're not a one-game wonder."