How 'Pokemon GO' is taking tech into dangerous, uncharted waters

“Pokemon GO” may have taken the world by storm, but amid reports of the first fatal incident related to the craze, experts warn the game is taking tech into hazardous new terrain.

“Most people, apparently, are having a good time and nothing bad is happening to them, but I do think that it creates a lot of opportunity bad things to happen,” Roger Kay, president of tech research firm Endpoint Technologies, told

The free augmented reality game lets players ‘capture’ Pokemon, or digital creatures, at real locations using their smartphones, but has fueled fears over distracted pedestrians, dangerous trespassing and criminals preying on unsuspecting gamers. The “Pokemon GO” craze reportedly claimed its first fatal victim when an 18-year-old playing the game was ambushed in Guatemala. The teenager died after being shot, according to news reports. There have also been multiple reports of “Pokemon GO” players falling victim to robberies and assaults.

A number of players have also wandered into hazardous locations. Four teenagers in the U.K. had to be rescued this week after they entered caves searching for Pokemon characters, the Guardian reports. The game was also involved in a security incident at an Indonesian military base when a player entered the facility while hunting Pokemon.


“The Geographical mapping feature in Pokémon Go is leading people in areas that they should be avoiding and the nature of the game creates distractions so that people are not paying any attention to where they are,” explained Chris Carmichael, founder and chief creative architect of augmented reality specialist Ubiquity Inc., in an email to “There is certainly a concern about players getting so engrossed in the game, that they put themselves in dangerous situations.”

Endpoint Technologies’ Kay told that he expected to see augmented reality technology make its initial presence felt in areas such as tourism, where it could be used to provide digital guides for physical locations. “I didn’t see it as a game,” he said, adding that “Pokemon GO’s” overnight success poses challenges. “['Pokemon GO'] shares with many technologies the problem of getting ahead of our social system and our legal system.”

The analyst explains, for example, that parents should lecture their children about the game’s potential risks, urging them to play “Pokemon GO” in groups, as opposed to alone.

Experts have also warned that trespassing “Pokemon GO” players could be putting their lives in danger, and have cited data privacy concerns.

“The app uses a player’s location data, and there is no opt-out for this feature,” Ubiquity’s Carmichael told “This raises privacy issues because if a player is somewhere that they don’t want to make public there is no way to shut the location information off.”

Despite these worries, the game, which was launched July 6, continues to enjoy incredible popularity. Digital market intelligence specialist SimilarWeb reports that by July 18, almost 14 percent of U.S. Android devices had “Pokemon GO” installed on them. The craze has also sparked increased usage of other apps such as battery savers, Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and weather and fitness apps, according to SimilarWeb.

“It's difficult to think of another technology craze that's elicited as much excitement as ‘Pokemon GO,’” Charles King, principal analyst of tech research firm Pund-IT, told “But I believe that faulting the game for the sometimes dangerous, injurious and even fatal activities of players are a mistake - we've long seen analogous, if less extreme behavior, among distracted smartphone owners whose digital absorption regularly lands them in hospital emergency rooms and, occasionally, cemeteries.”

"Pokemon GO" developer Niantic has not yet responded to a request for comment on this story from

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers