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Taiwan metro system offers augmented reality game

With the success of mobile phone video game Pokémon Go, it's not hard to guess that other software developers would try to create something else like it.

In Taiwan, someone has.

Pokémon Go works on a technology called augented reality. Unlike virtual reality, the setup often known by its acronym AR does not replace the real environment.

This technology -- in existence for 80 years but popularized only recently because of smartphone use -- instead uses computer-generated sensory input to add elements of fiction into a true environment. It's also normally 3D and interactive.

The metro system in Taiwan's second largest city Kaohsiung is trying an AR game now. This past summer, Kaohsiung Rapit Transit (KRT) worked with New York-based game studio Toii to introduce KRT Metro Romance to its passengers.

The main game characters are KRT-themed girls. Toii uses augmented reality in its game to help passengers at designated metro stations find and collect every character.

The KRT system and Toii figured players could use the game for a break in their fast-paced days, enjoying it while in transit through the city of 1.6 million people. It's intended as well to encourage city dwellers to go out and look at the scenery in Kaohsiung.

The metro system's ridership of 100,000 people per day has also fallen short of a projected 360,000, per local media reports.

Comparable to Japanese anime characters, every KRT girl and mascot has its own story and unique fact set. Players can learn each one as they go about collecting them.

The metro system is giving prizes to the first 400 participants who collect all characters and complete the game.

After a preview of the game came out in August before its official Sept. 12 launch, the sponsors received positive public response.

Toii, which has a branch in Taipei, is the brain behind the game. The company specializes in designing games that integrate AR with location-based services.

Toii CEO Allen Yu received his education in game design from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

Since graduation, Yu has created various video games and tabletop games, for example Rising Suns-Shanghai 1937.

Pokémon Go, developed by Niantic, Nintendo and The Pokémon Co., has become a worldwide rage since its launch in July. It's the reason that crowds of people sit on street corners quietly using their smartphones. The game's popularity has caused its servers to crash under heavy user loads.

Kaohsiung Rapid Transit is believed to be the first metro system to offer passengers an augmented reality game.