Pokémon, Google, and augmented reality go together like wasabi, soy, and ginger, and the trio has come together again for the release of the latest game from the Pokémon universe.
As Nintendo released the eagerly-anticipated games Pokémon Sword and Pokémon Shield for the Switch on Friday, gamers in Japan received an augmented reality bonus via Google Lens.
While the AR experience was announced via Pokémon's website for Japan, Pokémon fans don't have to have the Japanese version of the game to enjoy the experience.
As most image recognition-based AR experiences go, the actual game package isn't necessary to unlock the AR experience. For this promotion, a Google Lens scan of the cover image, or just a copy of the US edition packaging, is sufficient to reveal the Easter egg.
In fact, it appears that the marker for the experience is the key art of the characters themselves, rather than the cover art, as a scan of the character images from the game's website also plays the experience.
Pokémon GO, still the gold standard for augmented reality gaming, was famously inspired by an April Fools' Day prank in Google Maps when Niantic was a Google subsidiary. And while Google spun off Niantic prior to the release of Pokémon GO, the former parent company still participated in a $30 million funding round that fueled the game's launch.
Most recently, Google has developed a special Pikachu live wallpaper for the Pixel 4 showcasing the Motion Sense feature. With the wallpaper active, the character waves back in response to users waving at their devices.
So, if there's one constant we can count on as the augmented reality industry matures, it is that Google will always be there, in some form or fashion, to bring virtual pocket monsters into the real world.