Did you know that Pokémon is short for pocket monsters? It took me years to learn that even though I loved to play Pokémon as a child. The first Pokémon games were released in 1996 for Nintendo. More video games, television series, movies, toys, card games, music and even a theme park followed.
With Pokémon Go, which was released in summer of 2016 – 20 years after the first Pokémon for Nintendo video game – the pocket monsters successfully migrated to the 21st century. Pokémon Go is an augmented reality mobile game with more than 1 billion downloads until now and I can remember vividly crowds of players gathering around “Pokémon Gyms” outside in that summer. In Germany, the trend started to decline when autumn arrived and running around in parks started to become uncomfortable. But lately, I came across a handful of interesting news on Pokémon which I’d like to bundle and put into perspective for you.
#1: Pokémon by a Generative Adversarial Network
First, I want to show you the latest generation of Pokémon which were created by a generative adversarial network (GAN). We covered this technology in an earlier blogpost on deepfakes.
To fresh up your memory, GAN is a machine learning artificial intelligence that can dream up things (e.g. human faces as or , well, Pokémon). What is especially cool about creator Michael Friesen’s work is that it’s based on open source code StyleGAN which allows everyone with a profound know-how to build their own neural network project.
— Michael Friesen (@MichaelFriese10) May 12, 2019
#2: Scientist found Pokémon brain region
The second really cool news on Pokémon I want to share with you is more on the academic side: Researchers at Stanford University were able to detect a Pokémon brain region.
They hypothesized that childhood exposure is critical for developing dedicated brain regions. The study first author Jesse Gomez had the idea for the unusual experiment since he remembered himself playing Pokémon nonstop as a child. A hobby that he has in common with many people who were children in the 90ies. That’s why the experimental set-up using Pokémon stimuli might be able to answer the question if shared experiences in childhood result in shared brain organizations.
They used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to scan two different groups of adults. One group had extensively played Pokémon during their childhood, the other group was unfamiliar with the pixelated characters.
The Pokémon players group responded more to images of Pokémon than the control group and the brain activation was consistent across individuals (at the occipitotemporal sulcus). According to the researchers, the experiment demonstrates that our brains are heavily influenced by experiences from an early age.
#3: Pokémon Sleep: Catch ’em while sleeping
From neuroscience to the latest news in gaming: In June, The Pokémon Company announced their newest mobile app which will be released in 2020: Pokémon Sleep.
Pokémon Sleep will be able to track your sleep through their wearable device Pokémon GO Plus + (that’s not a typo, they call it Pokémon Go Plus Plus). The device embeds an accelerometer and send the sleep data to the users’ phone via Bluetooth. Pokémon aims at creating healthy sleep habits for their players through incentivizing a good night’s sleep (similar as Pokemon Go rewards walking). The app will notice that the player is sleeping and reward them with surprises when they wake up the next morning.
We’re pleased to announce the development of Pokémon Sleep, a new app from @Pokemon_cojp that tracks a user’s time sleeping and brings a gameplay experience unlike any other!
— Pokémon (@Pokemon) May 29, 2019
With that, The Pokémon Company is combining the functionality of most smartwatches with the entertainment of a video game – awesome, right? For those of you who are a bit skeptical about wearables, check out my article on smartwatches and fitness trackers as a security risk. For all others, enjoy this childhood memory of Snorlax.
GAN generated Pokémon
Pokémon brain region: Jesse Gomez, Michael Barnett, Kalanit Grill-Spector. Extensive childhood experience with Pokémon suggests eccentricity drives organization of visual cortex. Nature Human Behaviour, 2019; DOI: 10.1038/s41562-019-0592-8