More than a year after its initial launch, Pokemon Go is often remembered for its rabid players that overwhelmed parks and swarmed streets looking for cute little pocket monsters. But people tend to forget that Pokemon Go was also many people’s first experience with augmented reality. And while today’s trainer count is down from peak numbers last summer, Pokemon Go creator Niantic says the game’s augmented reality features were noticeably improved thanks to an integration with Apple’s ARKit on iOS.
The enhanced capabilities of the new AR+ mode (available on devices running iOS 11 and higher) mean you can get a much better sense of a Pokemon’s size and scale, as each creature is now fixed to a certain point in space. Now, you can walk around them, move closer and further way, all while your phone automatically adjusts its appearance relative to your location.
In fact, if you’re stealthy enough, you can even sneak up on Pokemon in the wild and earn an Expert Handler bonus. However, if you do scare off a Pokemon, you can try tapping on nearby tall grass to make the skittish critter reappear.
If you are skilled enough to approach an unaware Pokemon, you’ll have a better chance at earning throw bonuses, along with additional XP and Stardust if you actually capture it.
Pokemon Go was the first actually decent, widely released AR thing—period. And the game’s new AR+ mode is one of the first mainstream applications of the enhanced AR features you might have imagined when Apple added ARKit to iOS 11, which was released earlier this fall. This development also hints at iOS’s lead over Android in the mobile AR space, because even though Google built its competing ARCore platform into Android 8 Oreo, it seems the Android ecosystem as a whole is still too fragmented for developers to prioritize Android over iOS. Currently, there’s no timeline for when AR+ mode might come to the Android version of Pokemon Go.