Date
23 July 2017
"Pokemon Go" players could be exposed to danger if they search unsafe areas while staring at their smartphone screen. Photo: Reuters
"Pokemon Go" players could be exposed to danger if they search unsafe areas while staring at their smartphone screen. Photo: Reuters

Pokemon craze raises safety issues

Nintendo Co.’s hit mobile app “Pokémon Go” is giving millions of people their first taste of futuristic augmented-reality technology, but it is also raising questions about the physical risks of playing it, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The game uses technologies built into modern smartphones, such as the camera and GPS, to create a digital map and determine the location of virtual creatures that appear in the real world, the newspaper said.

Gamers have to collect items such as “Poké Balls”, which are needed to catch monsters and can be found at “PokéStops”, and then use the captured creatures to fight other players at “gyms”.

Both PokéStops and gyms usually are located in public places such as libraries, churches and landmarks pinpointed on the digital map.

It is feared that players could be exposed to danger if they search unsafe areas—a dark alley or along a river, for example—while staring at their smartphone screen, the Journal said.

Following the game’s launch in the United States, Australia and New Zealand last week, players talked on social media about dangerous encounters, such as Pokémon popping up near subway tracks.

There was also a case in O’Fallon, Missouri, where four teens waited at PokéStops in order to rob arriving players, the newspaper said, citing local police.

The game “could be potentially leading people into areas where they don’t belong”, such as construction sites or shuttered storefronts, Don Boyes, an associate professor of geography and planning at the University of Toronto, was quoted as saying.

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