Google's April Fools' prank puts Pokemon in the real world

The search giant's latest addition to its Maps smartphone app includes 150 "catchable" Pokemon, part of a hoax we can only hope foreshadows augmented reality uses down the line.

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Screenshot by Nick Statt/CNET

An augmented reality Pokemon game utilizing Google Maps sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately, on the eve of April Fools' Day, Google is pulling a fast one on diehard Pokemon fanatics, albeit in the best way possible.

Using a slick, well-produced YouTube video featuring some unprecedented augmented reality software, Google launched a fake competition wherein one person who seeks out every Pokemon hidden in real-world locations can join Google in the role of the Pokemon Master.

Google has been known to pull a prank or two -- in recent years more like a dozen -- every April since 2000, with the effort getting seemingly more involved and epic in scope each year. In 2013 alone, Google announced YouTube was shutting down for 10 years to pick a "winning video," debuted a treasure hunt mode for Google Maps, announced a beta launch of a smell-searching product called Google Nose, and released a fake Gmail update that was said to make the product better by making it the color blue.

So the Google Maps Pokemon Challenge is but one of what will likely be a large number of hoaxes to continue rolling out today and tomorrow. The video showcases some extreme scenarios and illogical feats, like rock-climbing with your Nexus 5 to seek out a hidden creature in a cave and attempting to catch a rare Pokemon mid-parachute descent as it whizzes by.

While the chance to join Google with an absurd title like Pokemon Master has eluded us for now, the April Fools' hoax didn't stop the company from giving smartphone users a neat little game to play around with in the meantime.

Starting Monday, Google has flooded its iOS and Android Maps app with Pokemon, placing 150 of the creatures in real-world locations that can then be tapped on to "catch" and fill one's Pokedex.

While not the original 150 from the game's initial installments, Red and Blue, the collection of Pokemon seemingly spans the entire globe. Naturally, I though to jump over to Tokyo, Japan and was happy to scroll over the series' flagship Pokemon.

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Head over to Tokyo's Akihabara district to find yourself a Pikachu. Screenshot by Nick Statt/CNET

Google gave its fake campaign a 2 p.m. PT, April 2 deadline for anyone interested in catching them all. While there's sure to be some type of reward involved, don't hold your breath for the chances of it being a job at the search giant.

 

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