What does Surveying have to do with Pokémon?
If you’re not already on your quest to ‘catch ‘em all’, you’ve no doubt heard about Pokémon Go – the wildly popular game that has people of all ages walking the streets staring at their phones (and sometimes walking into stationary objects) in search of virtual Pokémon.
What you may not have heard about is the technology that makes the game possible.
Pokémon Go allows you to find and catch Pokémon located all around you using a Geographic Information System, or GIS. A GIS is a database of information that pinpoints different features to a location such as property boundaries and building locations. Google Maps is one of the most well known GIS that has been created over many years using a combination of government cadastral data, satellite imagery and data collected by Google via GPS and Street view imagery.
Cadastral or land surveyors are responsible for defining land parcel boundaries and road alignments that make up the government cadastre, which is the basis for the world of Pokémon Go. So what you’re actually seeing when you spot that cute little Charmander down the street is geographic data generated in large part by surveyors. The app uses the GPS in your phone to locate you and place your avatar at your location on the ‘gamified’ Geographic Information System. Pokémon are then created at certain coordinates within the GIS reference frame and displayed in the ‘real world’ creating an augmented reality with your camera. Geographic markers also assist in determining what types of Pokémon are in certain locations, i.e. water based Pokémon can be found near water. “We assign values based on whether there is a water body in an area — so a stream, a river, a pond — whether areas are designated as zoos or parks, or other kinds of mapping designations,” John Hanke, CEO of Niantic said.
The use of maps and GPS makes Pokémon Go a uniquely active, social game, taking gamers out of their bedrooms and into the ‘real world’. “There’s a stereotypical image of a gamer in 2016, a couch potato who never leaves the house, who never really enjoys [the] outdoors. The gamer playing Pokémon Go? That person is outdoors all the time”, commented the New York Daily.
Similarly, surveyors who formed Pokémon Go’s GIS framework, enjoy working outdoors in a variety of locations – no two work days are alike. There may not be a world of Pokémon through the lens of a surveyor’s equipment, however unlike Pokémon trainers, surveyors are able to see future towns and cities and map the world around them.
So if you have a keen interest in geography or technology, surveying could be the career for you.