Virtual alien hunting by mobile phone

Japanese phone
KDDI customers will soon be found loitering outside buildings looking for invisible aliens

Later this month, mobile phone users in Japan will get their hands on an innovative new game that combines GPS and an electronic compass to, rather oddly, help invisible aliens find their way back home.

KDDI's Navimon was developed by US firm Geovector but is being introduced first in Japan in a bid to see how it flies with the phone-centric populace there.

They're here

After downloading the application, players armed with suitably equipped phones – and there aren't that many in Japan – receive a message alerting them to the presence of an alien in the vicinity of a particular building near their present location.

As with other GPS-based games, they then have to find the building and deal with the issue at hand – finding the alien and sending it home.

That's achieved by pointing a phone at the building, after which the multi-axis compass determines the spatial orientation of the phone and reveals a virtual alien superimposed on the view through the camera. A simple click registers it as found and, supposedly, pointed towards the road home.

Advertising counts

That's the nuts and bolts of the game, but – of course – there's far more to it than meets the eye. KDDI and any other network trying out the technology in future will clearly be looking to advertising to monetise such games.

The possibilities of contextual ads based on what customers are actually looking at in the real world are vast, virtually guaranteeing that technology like this will make it outside Japan.

So, don't be surprised if you find yourself on a virtual monster hunt one of these days, only to be confronted with ads for online shopping or coupons for discounts in nearby stores.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.