Tax & Accounting Blog

GIS in Pop Culture

Blog, Indirect Tax, ONESOURCE July 15, 2016

Have you been playing Pokemon Go this week? If so, then guess what? You’ve been interacting with some GIS!

Pokemon Go is a new mobile game, that I will assume you’ve already heard all about. It is an augmented reality game (some would argue that this specific game is more correctly termed an Alternate Reality game), which means that the game experience is overlaid on your real world environment. And this experience is made possible by Geographic Information Systems.

The game was built by Niantic, the founder of which, John Hanke, used to work at Google on Google Earth and Google Maps. In fact, the game probably has its roots in the Google Maps feature (April Fools joke?) described in this blog post from 2014. Hanke explained, in an interview with Mashable, how the data used to create the locations in the game (pokestops and gyms) were effectively crowd-sourced from users of their earlier game, Ingress. Also of interest, is the fact that certain types of Pokemon are found near certain types of real-world features. For example, water creatures are found near water bodies. This means that a geographic data set of land-use types underlies the game and the attributes of those features determines the types of the nearby Pokemon points. I also imagine that buffer analysis is used in conjunction with the point data representing the Pokemon creatures, as you only have to be within a certain distance of a Pokemon point in order to “catch” it. Perhaps geo-fences are are used for this purpose.

How exciting to see the technology that we use everyday here on the Indirect Tax GIS team engaging so many people!