arry Potter: Wizards Unite （ arry Potter: Wizards Unite ，是Pokémon Go背后公司的最新游戏，它使玩家能够利用童年时代的魔法来与怪物战斗并在当地社区收集闪闪发光的数字文物。 Niantic的应用程序肯定会鼓励游戏玩家到户外活动并活跃起来，但是在幕后， Wizards Unite正在悄悄地施展另一种咒语：收集关于您去向的惊人数据。
Wizards Unite是Niantic与华纳兄弟合作开发的增强现实手机游戏。 数以百万计的人在玩这款游戏，与《 Pokémon Go 》在发布两年后的2018年活跃的1.5亿活跃用户的数量不一样，但在发布时，它就以数十万的下载量跃升至应用程序商店的顶端。 Niantic的应用程序经常在应用程序商店中占主导地位，就像该公司本身在增强现实游戏世界中占据主导地位一样。 它们是自2001年以来一直在运作的技术人员小组的最新产品，被Google收购然后从Google剥离出来，而从未忘记其最终目标：以数字方式绘制整个世界并利用这些数据。
无处不在的计算不会在您的桌面上玩World of Warcraft达13个小时，甚至不会使用手机从朋友家导航到最近的酒品商店。 这是将数字世界无缝集成到任何地方，任何时间的物理世界中。 在某些情况下，无处不在的计算也被称为“中介现实”，是《 Star Trek的科幻小说，其中任务由客观，中立的计算系统介导。 这是Google Glass的愿景，它是一款售价1,500美元的设备，可以通过语音命令拍摄照片，在Google上搜索，查看日历或接收旅行提醒。 Google Glass从未流行，尽管在演讲中，汉克坚称AR的未来是可穿戴技术。
正如约翰·汉克（John Hanke）在2016年与伯克利商学院（Berkeley School of Business）的一次演讲中所解释的那样 ，他从掩埋在摩天大楼下方的飞船的故事中得出的结论是，“世界上存在着这种隐藏的信息”，他想开发“可以帮助您在物理世界中移动时了解这些事情。”
汉克出生于1967年，在得克萨斯州的克罗斯平原一个成千上万的小镇长大，小时候发现了一个装满《 National Geographic 》杂志的书包，爱上了地图-远东的尼罗河三角洲-他认为一种探索远离他的小镇的遥远地方的方法。 后来，汉克用自己在草坪上赚来的钱买了台电脑。 Hanke代替了父亲的小牧场经营，将精力集中在学校上，在那里他将赢得全州计算机编程比赛。 （Hanke的传记在2018年幕后故事《 Never Lost Again （谷歌地图的历史）中进行了介绍 由Keyhole / Google / Niantic执行官Bill Kilday撰写。 当Kotaku询问传记信息是否正确时，Hanke说 他没有看完整本书。）
在Ingress ，“特工”（玩家）使用他们的“扫描器”（手机）来取代“门户”（特定的IRL地标），这是黑客捕获标志的游戏。 开创性的游戏仍然保持着中等规模的忠实拥护者。 Niantic于2015年从Google剥离出来，Google为其提供了一些种子资金。 宠物小精灵公司和任天堂的慷慨投资提供了帮助。 一年后， Pokémon Go的发布量将是Google Maps和Google Earth的三倍。
自2016年发布以来，《 Pokémon Go已净赚超过23亿美元。 在其中，玩家可以从PokeStops（也是现实生活中的地点和地标）中收集物品，以便他们可以捕捉并收集在其周围生成的Pokémon。 Pokémon Go几乎立即引发了自己的隐私权争议，也将其归咎于一个错误，该错误涉及用户向Niantic授予大量权限：联系人，位置，存储，摄像头，以及（对于iPhone用户而言）对Google帐户的完全访问权限，而这并不是必不可少的游戏性。 明尼苏达州参议员艾尔·弗兰肯（Al Franken）就此事写了一封措辞严谨的信，对Niantic表示关切，“对Niantic未经其适当同意可能不必要地收集，使用和共享大量用户个人信息的程度。” Niantic说“ iOS上的帐户创建过程错误地请求了完全访问权限”，并补充道， Pokémon Go仅获得了用户ID和电子邮件地址信息。
三年后，Niantic将发布增强现实游戏Wizards Unite ，玩家可以在其附近收集“可混杂物”，用魔法与敌人作战，并与旅馆和温室等位置锁定的资源进行互动。 使“ Wizards Unite成为“增强现实”游戏的原因是，当玩家遇到一些不可思议的事物时，他们必须在游戏中进行处理，手机的摄像头会打开。 在玩家办公桌，通勤火车或附近街道的前景中，出现一些类似Harry Potter物体或怪兽。 在这些相遇之间，游戏会随着玩家在街上闲逛而闲着，那里散布着神奇，可互动的事物。
Niantic称之为“真实世界平台”，运行所有这些游戏，这是一个“操作系统”，允许其他开发人员使用Niantic在映射和标记世界上已经完成的所有工作来构建自己的应用和游戏。 Niantic希望最终其他开发商能够使用其Real World Platform开发更多游戏，从而推动其技术的普及。
Niantic并不是唯一一家收集此类数据的公司。 去年， New York Times发表了一篇有关超过75家公司如何从超过2亿个设备上的电话应用程序中获取精确精确的匿名位置数据的信息。 有时，这些公司每天跟踪用户的位置超过14,000次。 结果始终是相同的：即使用户在很多时候已经通过同意他们的用户协议将他们的位置数据签署给了这些公司，但他们通常还是不知道公司会在他们的什么样的人身上做详尽的记录分别是：他们去过的地方，下一步可能去的地方，以及是否在那买东西。
数据可以成功匿名的想法长期以来一直是有争议的。 七月份，伦敦帝国理工学院的研究人员能够在“匿名”数据集中准确地重新识别99.98％的美国人。 And in 2018, a New York Times investigation found that, when provided raw anonymized location data, companies could identify individuals with or without their consent. In fact, according to experts, it can take just four timestamped location records to specifically identify an individual from a collection of latitudes and longitudes that they have visited.
“'Anonymous data' is a contradiction in terms,” said Justin Brookman, a privacy expert at Consumer Reports who formerly worked for the Federal Trade Commission. “I think it's bad practice if information shared for one narrow purpose—especially sensitive data like geolocation—is shared opaquely with third parties,” he said. “There should be law about this to constrain third-party sharing of data beyond what's reasonably necessary for an app to work. There's no need for Burger King or Starbucks to know I was catching Charmander in there.”
Niantic's focus might be on games for now, but its investors may be looking to a post- Pokémon future. In January, Niantic raised $245 million in one round of funding. Big-name players in the tech industry have contributed, like Samsung Ventures, Battery Ventures, and IVP, who says Niantic is “delivering an operating system for applications that unite the digital world with the physical world.” Niantic's current valuation is over $4 billion, technically qualifying it as a “unicorn” startup, higher on the valuation list than CreditKarma or 23andMe.
“We have been clear in our statements about our desire to create broadly appealing entertainment products that follow our goals of encouraging exploration, exercise, and real-world social interaction as well as our desire to create the Niantic Real World Platform and supporting technologies such as the AR Cloud,” said John Hanke in an email. “I believe investors value us based on those goals.”
Niantic makes a staggering amount of money off in-game microtransactions, a reported $1.8 billion in Pokémon Go ’s first two years. It also makes money from sponsorships. By late 2017, there were over 35,000 sponsored PokeStops, which players visited over 500 million times. Hanke described foot traffic as the “holy grail of retail businesses” in a 2017 talk to the Mobile World Congress. 13,000 of the sponsored stops were Starbucks locations. Starbucks offered a sickeningly sweet custom Frappuccino if you played Pokémon Go while in one of its stores. Sprint put lures in front of their stores to attract more Pokémon, and if people walked into a Sprint and inquired about their services, the company's Trainer Reward Program would offer incentives to retain them.
“We have always been transparent about this product and feel it is a much better experience for our players than the kind of video and text ads frequently deployed in other mobile games,” Hanke told Kotaku . He then shared a link to an Ad Agearticle announcing Pokémon Go ’s sponsored locations and detailing its “cost per visit” business model.
Big-money tech companies rarely make money in just one or two ways, and often inconspicuously employ money-making strategies that may be less palatable to privacy-minded consumers. Mobile app companies are notorious for this. One 2017 Oxford study , for example, analyzed 1 million smartphone apps and determined that the median Google Play Store app can share users' behavioral data with 10 third parties, while one in five can share it with over 20. “Freemium” mobile apps can earn big revenue from sharing data with advertisers—and it's all completely opaque to users, as a Buzzfeed News report explained in 2018.
Advertising market research company Emarketer projected that advertisers will spend $29 billion on location-targeted advertising, also referred to as “geoconquesting,” this year. Marketers target and tailor ads for app users in a specific location in real-time, segment a potential audience for an ad by location, learn about consumers based on where they were before they bought something, and connect online ads to offline purchases using location data—another manifestation of “ubiquitous computing.” One of the biggest location-targeted ad companies, GroundTruth, taps data from 120 million unique monthly users to drive people to businesses like Taco Bell, where it recently took credit for 170,000 visits after a location-targeted ad campaign.
Geoconquesting is now fully integrated into digital mapping, and has been for years. Google Maps offers its location-targeted advertising service, which capitalizes on Google's knowledge of where you typically go in the world and places you seem most interested in based on searches. Foursquare, once a social app for telling friends what restaurants or museums you've been to, is now leveraging its 13 billion check-ins into its new business model: “a location data and technology platform” that pairs “location tech with other data points, like transaction history.” 150,000 business partners, including Apple and Uber, receive audience profiles and granular location data, which they can tailor into, for example, a curated, personalized itinerary for a hotel guest that also drives foot traffic.
Niantic said it is not in the business of selling user location data. But it will send its users to you. Wizards Unite recently partnered with Simon Malls, which owns over 200 shopping centers, to add “multiple sponsored Inns and Fortresses” at each location, “giving players more XP and more spell energy than at any other non-sponsored location in the US” As online shopping overtakes the mall experience, new technology is necessary to attract the sort of foot traffic that could keep malls off life support.
What might help is technology offering insights into how people behave at malls, too, so retailers can tweak their strategies for luring in foot traffic and pushing product. If the goal is to unite the physical with the digital, insights gleaned from how long users loiter outside a Coach store and how long they might look at a Coach Instagram ad could be massively useful to these waning mall brands. Uniting these worlds for a field trip around Tokyo is one thing; uniting them to consolidate digital and physical ad profiles is another.
“This is a hot topic in mall operation—tracking the motion of people within a mall, what stores they're going to, how long they're going,” said Ron Merriman, a theme park business strategist based in Shanghai (who, he noted after we contacted him for this story, happened to go to business school with Hanke). Merriman says that tracking users in malls, aquariums, and theme parks to optimize merchandising, user experiences, and ad targeting is becoming the norm where he lives in Asia. Retailers polled by Emarketer in late 2018 planned on investing more in proximity and location-based marketing than other emerging, hot-topic technologies like AI.
“Until quite recently, less than the last 10 years, for our business, your connection to your consumer started when they showed up at the front base and ended when they clicked the turnstile on the way out after the fireworks show.” he said. Today, his industry tracks users' phones, faces, even clothing for the purposes of promoting experiences and products.
This is not a business that Niantic says it is involved in, but a patent that the company filed in January suggests a possible future for the augmented-shopping experience. It describes something called the “commercial game feature module,” a technology that lets advertising partners tweak a game's features in realtime to better incentivize nearby users to visit. An app using the tech could get requests from advertisers to do things like “locating virtual elements at specified locations in the virtual world,” or “providing virtual items and/or enhanced powers to specific players.” It also describes the technology's ability to “continuously monitor the positions of players” and based on this information “identify players with a predefined radius of commercial activity.”
“Patentable ideas may arise as companies do various types of research and exploration, but they often reflect ideas or technical implementations that do not correspond to product plans, and it can be inaccurate to extrapolate meaning from them,” a Niantic representative said via email in response to Kotaku ’s questions about its patents.
“There is often a big gap between what's in a [patent] application and what the company is actually doing,” said David Stein, an attorney specializing in technology patents. Stein was a source in a recent Slate piece about how technology companies will often patent ideas they have little intention of actually using.
That doesn't mean, he said, that the patents are meaningless. “If you take a step back, you can figure out generally what they are researching, and generally what sorts of things they are interested in doing,” he said. “Companies generally don't throw away money on things they have no intention to use.”
With those caveats in mind, let's consider some of Niantic's other recent research. A patent issued in August of this year describes a technology meant to incentivize the collection of data through gameplay. An example: “...a computing device is programmed to ask questions to users to cause or incentivize data to be collected for a map of an entire environment (eg, home), and provide feedback in the form of points for gameplay on the interface of the computing device. Gamification provides a motivation to participate, through in-game rewards and other feedback, such as encouragement (eg, indications of 'great job!').”
When asked about this patent, Kei Kawai said that Niantic's engineering team researches a lot of ways to use what he called “computer vision” to help “users' phones or devices understand their situations or where they are better, and reiterated that Niantic's plans are aimed at “what's fun and makes sense and fits our goal of getting people outside.”
While Kawai stresses that Niantic's goal is always to get people outside, it's worth noting that these patents specifically refer to mapping floor plans, home offices, kitchens and even the items that you own.
Another patent held by Niantic, which it acquired when it bought a company called Tick Tock AI in 2018, describes software that can use computer vision to “identify shoes, determine specific model, determine that shoes belong to John Smith, and disambiguating between other shoes owned and worn by John Smith.” According to this patent, a host of intimate contextual information can then be associated with the item by using “...audio (eg, noises of cooking), images of the food prior to cooking, activity recognition data of a person cooking, a time at which cooking was initiated and a time at which cooking was completed.”
“We do not infer or attempt to infer the floor plan of a player's house or other interior space in any of Niantic's products,” said a Niantic representative when asked about this patent.
Whether Niantic does it or not, this is one likely future of mapping for augmented reality. In a series of Medium posts, Ryan Hickman, the co-founder of TickTock AI, argued that complex systems like self-driving cars or truly seamless augmented reality experiences require a level of situational awareness and spatial reasoning that AI is currently missing. “These virtual characters that are supposed to be the future of our digital lives still have zero understanding of the world,” he wrote. “They rely on imperfect mobile sensors that struggle with 'optically uncooperative surfaces.'” To Hickman, this is a mapping problem, and one that tech companies are eager to solve with your camera data.
How does this work? If a company wants to create an AR product where you can yell commands at your virtual pet that are picked up by some ubiquitous computing hardware—“Maggie, go lie down on my bed!”—their software needs to know what a “bed” is. It needs to know where in your house the bed is located, and which bed is yours. The software needs to learn, based on images from hundreds of thousands of other people's unmade beds, how to associate the label “bed” with the collection of pixels that comprise your bed , as seen through your camera.
In this computational future, all of this detail comes collectively from us , and relies on turning over a great deal of information to companies with business interests that are often at odds with our own.
As one former Niantic employee put it: “It is almost irrelevant to talk about the company's original intent, because I think that to create such an organization is to invite rot over time. It's more of a question of, how can we structure companies that have fiscal responsibility to public welfare?”
In a future that continues to blur the barriers separating the physical world and the digital one—one mediated heavily by companies with commercial incentives—advertisers may glean new and secret wormholes into users' lives and pocketbooks. Yes, it's possible that companies with unfathomable financial incentives to capitalize on their data goldmines will remain responsible with users' privacy, proving that, all along, the point of all this digital mapping momentum was pocket monsters and magic wands and getting gamers outside. But what happens over the years as these companies' executives, shareholders, goals, and priorities change and grow, and the data set they hold on to just gets more and more detailed?
Today, Niantic can believably cast itself as a company aimed at getting gamers outside. But John Hanke sometimes describes it as an advertising company or a digital mapping company, too. The open question of where this market-leading technology goes from here—whether it's smiling pocket pets more believably hopping around our bedrooms, or the Hyper-Reality of ubiquitous computing, saturated with data-probes and targeted advertising—is what may make space for the rot to set in.
What is surprising about Niantic is not what it's doing, but what it's capable of, and the fact that most of its users won't ever understand just how much they're handing over whenever they use a location-based app.
“We live in a technological surveillance capitalism state,” said the former employee. “How could it be any other way?”
Correction, 7:25 p.m.: The original version of this story misstated the year of release of the book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism . This has been corrected.
从前， Fire Emblem的ROM被称为Midnight Sun. 它在2017年被取消，但现在又回来了，在过去的几年中将其自身转变为一个独立的原始视频游戏。 它不再基于任天堂的经典系列，现在被称为Path of the Midnight Sun ，它更像是一部带有RPG元素的视觉小说，而不是像《 Fire Emblem这样的战术格斗游戏。 尽管如此，语气还是非常相似， Path of the Midnight Sun甚至消失了，吸引了一些配音演员，他们不仅在《 Fire Emblem ，而且也在《 Pokemon中工作。 以前是这样的： 这是现在的样子： 该游戏目前已在Kickstarter上启动 ，并有望在明年年底在PC和Mac（以及Switch）上发布。
Kotaku East East是您亚洲网络文化的一部分，为您带来来自日本，韩国，中国及其他地区的最新话题。 每天早上4点至8点进行调音。 上一个 下一个 查看全部 Pearl Abyss以“ Black Desert及其令人eye目的角色创建工具而闻名。 今天在韩国，该工作室刚刚宣布了三场比赛。 它们看起来都令人印象深刻。 在G-Star游戏博览会上（通过技巧顾问Sang），Pearl Abyss宣布了以下游戏： 方案8 Pearl Abyss的目标是在PC和游戏机上发布这个开放世界的“外装MMO射击游戏”，并透露开发商Minh Le（在他的Counter Strike时代更广为人知的“ Gooseman”）于2018年3月加入工作室。 DokeV 这是面向移动设备的开放世界MMO。 看起来好可爱！ Update: 11/18 - 2:20 AM EST: 18-2 Update: 11/18 - 2:20 AM EST: Pearl Abyss发言人告诉Kotaku，虽然DokeV最初预定用于移动设备，但该工作室现在计划在主机和PC上发布它。 深红色沙漠 Pearl Abyss将游戏描述为“史诗般的幻想开放世界MMORPG”。在PC和游戏机上，它显然只有一个单人游戏 具有多人游戏元素的战役。 这场比赛似乎是《 Black Desert的前传。 在Pearl Abyss的G-Star演讲结束时，有一条消息显示为“在E3见”。