Impacts of Pokémon GO on route and mode choice decisions: exploring the potential for integrating augmented reality, gamification, and social components in mobile apps to influence travel decisions

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - surveys, ridership - attitudes, ridership - behaviour, ridership - modelling, ridership - mode choice, ridership - perceptions, policy - sustainable, technology - intelligent transport systems


Augmented reality, Mobile apps, Route choice, Mode choice, Pokémon GO, Gamification, Social interactions


This study aims to understand the impacts of Pokémon GO, a popular location-based augmented reality (AR) mobile gaming app, on route and mode choices. Pokémon GO leverages AR to introduce virtual objects at fixed and dynamic locations that translate through the app interface to incentives in the real world that potentially influence users’ route and mode choices. Its gaming nature and social components can possibly enhance long-term user engagement through applying the characteristics of game elements and providing opportunities for competition, collaboration, companionship, and social reinforcement. An online survey is conducted to collect the self-reported behavior of a group of Pokémon GO users to explore its impacts on the following aspects of travel behavior: (1) the frequency of changing the route to interact with virtual objects; (2) the likelihood of carpooling more instead of driving alone for more in-app collaboration; and (3) the likelihood of shifting mode from drive alone to public transit, walking, and cycling if provided with additional incentives. The ordered survey responses including frequency and likelihood are analyzed using random parameters ordered probit models to account for the unobserved heterogeneity across users and identify subpopulations of travelers who are more susceptible to the influence of Pokémon GO. The modeling results identify four types of variables (attitude and perceptions related to Pokémon GO, app engagement, play style, and sociodemographic characteristics) that affect users’ travel behavior. The results illustrate that such apps with integrated AR, gamification, and social components can be used by policymakers to influence various aspects of travel behavior. The study findings and insights can provide valuable feedback to system operators for designing such apps to dynamically manage traffic in real-time and promote long-term sustainable mode shifts.


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