Pokémon Go and Ingress Game Creative Talks On the Future of Augmented Reality

By Jo Huang, the Daily Bruin
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Raza Ahmad, an alumnus of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television and member of the Niantic Labs creative team, came to UCLA to talk about his work in game design and his vision for augmented reality. (Owen Emerson/Daily Bruin senior staff)

Raza Ahmad said he didn’t expect augmented reality games to be the success they have been. But Pokémon Go and other games he helped develop proved him wrong.

Ahmad, a UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television alumnus and member of the Niantic Labs creative team, presented his role in developing augmented reality technology at a FuturizeX event Thursday evening.

Niantic Labs is the software company that created Pokémon Go, a game that gained popularity quickly after it was released. In July, Pokémon Go was ranked higher than Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram in the Google Play store.

FuturizeX director Andres Cuervo interviewed Ahmad at the top of Janss Steps, in front of an audience of about 300 faculty, students and visitors. FuturizeX is a campuswide initiative that aims to promote technological innovation.

During the interview, Ahmad shared how he became interested in augmented reality and game design. When he was in film school at UCLA, he would take gaming classes too. He enjoyed the classes so much that he decided to become a teaching assistant for those classes, he said.

“There was lots of downtime as a TA,” he said. “ During those times I would mess around with (Adobe) After Effects for an entire day, learn technologies and make my brain expand into another direction.

He joined Google as the company was developing Niantic Labs. Niantic Labs later parted from from Google and became its own company, he said.

Before Pokémon Go, Niantic Labs developed Ingress, a game in which players can compete in teams to capture imaginary portals at real places like landmarks and monuments.

He said he did not expect Ingress to be as successful as it became, because the game requires players to walk to different locations to find the portals while people were used to playing games indoors.

“To play the game, you (have) to get up from your chair and walk all the way over there,” he said. “That’s a lot to ask of people and there was no reason to assume people would embrace this.”

Students who attended the events said they were surprised to hear the stories behind the development of Pokémon Go and Ingress.

See the entire story at Daily Bruin.


Media Contact:
Jo Huang, Daily Bruin
jhuang@media.ucla.edu