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Upcoming Pokémon Go patch will add ARKit functionality

If you are still playing Pokémon Go, a new update coming from Niantic is expected to add a bit more reality to trying to catch them all as a Pokemon trainer, with Apple's ARkit as the key.

The update, which does not have an official release date yet, will add what the developer is calling AR+ to the game, as long as users have an iPhone 6 or later running iOS 11 or above. The addition of the ARKit framework will bring some new functionality to the game:

  • Scale: Instead of the Pokémon floating at some nebulous point in front of your camera, AR+ now fixes a location for the Pokémon. Players will be able to walk up to them and get a feel for the actual size of the creature they are trying to catch. "This feature brings us one step closer to truly realizing Pokémon the way they are supposed to be represented in the real world," the company said.
  • Awareness: While walking up to a Pokémon may seem like a cool idea, realism dictates that the critter can see you too, and may not want to be trapped in a silly ball. The closer you get, the more aware of you they will become, and if they become spooked, they can run away. A little exclamation point will appear next to the Pokémon, and will gradually turn red as the creature becomes more aware of your presence. If it does run away, tap the tall grass on the screen to possibly get another chance at catching it.
  • Expert Handler Bonus: The closer you get to a Pokémon before you catch it, the better chance you have to get a Great or Excellent throw bonus. An Expert Handler bonus can also be awarded, granting even more Stardust and XP while leveling.

The new AR+ mode should drain less battery than Pokémon Go's original AR, Niantic told CNET. However, as with most games, battery drain will still happen, and depending on how worn out your battery is, you could encounter an unexpected shutdown.

Niantic is happy to out the new feature for iPhones, but there's no word on when Android users would get the feature. Google has its own ARCore framework, which works in similar fashion. It would not be at all surprising if Niantic is developing both simultaneously, but plans to use the iOS release first to gauge popularity and watch for problems.

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