Technology helping people get outside

Published 9:45 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

Are you looking for a perfect definition of irony? Visit Riverfront Park in Niles this week — or any number of other public places — and you will see how a video game is helping people enjoy the great outdoors.

You will see dozens of people of pretty much all ages walking through the park, mobile phone in hand, laughing and just generally having fun.

It may be a little jarring at first to see so many people out in Mother Nature yet still with their faces hidden behind a phone screen but, ultimately, the positives sure seem to outweigh the negatives.

So, what’s driving these outdoor excursions? It is called Pokèmon GO and the craze continues to sweep across the country.

For those who maybe aren’t quite up to speed with this fad or don’t know what in the world a Pokèmon even is, let me try to explain.

Pokèmon GO is a free mobile phone application where players capture, battle and train cartoon monsters. The game makes use of the phone’s GPS and camera so players can “see” these crazy looking things on their phone screen. So players have to scour parks, neighborhoods and other public places in search of them, often walking considerable distances.

My daughters found their first one — a furry purple creature that looked sort of like a rabbit mixed with a fly — in our backyard. We caught a few more in the neighborhood before heading to the park.

Pokèmon has been around for years, taking a variety of formats from a collectible card game to truckloads of toys to traditional video games. It used to be just for kids and many people wouldn’t even admit to playing it.

My how things have changed!

There were kids in the park Tuesday, but there were also a significant percentage of teenagers and even adults playing on their own. The common thread is everyone seemed to be having a blast “catching” these colorful critters.

Maybe people being on phones in public all the time — even more than normal — isn’t the perfect scenario and, as with anything else requires education and parental supervision, this seems like a harmless way to have fun and get active.


Michael Caldwell is the publisher of Leader Publications LLC. He can be reached at (269) 687-7700 or by email at