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Pokemon Go: Augmented Reality, Real Injuries

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Since being released last Wednesday, Pokemon Go has become the most downloaded mobile app in mobile app stores. In fact, the game has been received as the most popular mobile game in U.S. history, with 21 million daily users. The app has caused Nintendo’s stock to skyrocket — by Monday, it had risen 24.52 percent. The app has added $9 billion to the company’s market value and has already been installed on an estimated 5 percent of Android smartphones in the United States.

The app allows users to venture into augmented reality, a technology that blends digital and physical worlds into a unique interactive experience. Before Pokemon Go, some smartphone users had gotten a taste of augmented reality through Snapchat Inc.’s array of filters. The game should also be lauded for promoting exercise among users, with many users reporting the game as increasing their daily exercise.

But the game’s quick rise to success has had some downsides. A variety of injuries have occurred from people not paying attention to their surroundings while playing the game. Accidents include: two men falling off a 50-100 foot bluff in Encinitas, a 16-year-old girl in Pennsylvania hit by a car after she wandered onto a major freeway and an array of bumps, bruises, scrapes and falls. Four teens in Missouri were even able to use the geolocation feature of the game to lure victims into nearly a dozen armed robberies.

Although the game includes a preliminary screen warning users to stay alert and aware of their surroundings, potential legal issues may arise. The initial question for injured players with legal claims, likely in a negligence context, is whether the creators of the game owed a legal duty to users. Only time will tell how California courts resolve these and other novel issues unearthed by the game.

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