A US and Kenyan start-up is using real-world data from endangered wildlife to create an augmented reality game to track animal movements.
The Safari Central app, available on iOS and Android right now as a preview version of the final game, lets players follow real animals based on GPS data logged by National Parks and conservationists.
The Safari Central game, made by Internet of Elephants, currently tracks six animals, including Rockstar the Ground Pangolin, Lola the Black Rhino, an elephant named Mweturia, Atiaia the mother Jaguar, and Beby the Indri Lemur.
Each have their own personalities which translate to their behaviours in the game – Mweturia is a 40 year old bull elephant, and has perfected the art of breaking electric fences at night to feast on crops in his region in Kenya.
In other real-world examples presented by Internet of Elephants, Manyara, a 26-year-old elephant in Tanzania, traveled 695 kilometers in her herd of 30 elephants, mostly tracking the Makyini River. She did get close to humans, regularly crossing a highway to reach a salt band for important minerals.
Another tracked animal, a wildebeest named Neatoo, travelled more than 3,000 kilometers in a single month while searching for fresh grass.
The game was given a funding boost from a successful Kickstarter project to add eight more animals, including a Himalayan Snow Leopard, Orangutan from Borneo, and a Siberian Tiger from Russia.
The game is very firmly based on reality – so much so that the GPS data used to track the animals is given some deliberate tweaks and purposeful delays to avoid the data being used by poachers against these rare and endangered animals.
“Think of it as Pokemon Go, but where the animals are real animals, and where they move around a city based on their actual movements, not where we tell them to go,” says Gautam Shah, founder of Internet of Elephants.
The goal of the game is to foster more awareness and understanding of the plight of wild animals, and raise support for wildlife conservation. Playing at home or out and about requires a data connection and an AR target, which the game details. It’s likely to be even easier as the game continues to develop ahead of the full launch in late 2018, and as augmented reality technology improves.
The game itself features in-app purchases, with the money flowing to conservation projects via partnerships, such as with WWF Brazil, and the Chicago Zoological Society.
It’s worth flagging that while Internet of Elephants is a for-profit organisation, in-app purchases appear to be treated as donations to partners rather than the company.