back to article When can real-world laws invade augmented reality fantasies? A trial in Milwaukee will decide

In the blue corner: Candy Lab, a maker of augmented reality games, which doesn't want people banned from playing its distractions in public places. In the red corner: attorneys representing Milwaukee county, which wants to protect its parks from being trashed by boozy, stampeding gamers. Candy Lab thinks free speech …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The first pic

    I am giving you about 15seconds before the plod takes interest in you with that thing on your screen at that location in the current climate.

    1. ArrZarr
      Thumb Down

      Re: The first pic

      It could be argued that it is somewhat tasteless, certainly.

      1. Putters

        Re: The first pic

        Lord spare us from those who are offended on our behalf.

        1. John Lilburne
          Coat

          Re: The first pic

          Marauding mobs of twitchers in pursuit of a rare bird can and have caused environmental damage, caused an affray, the death of the bird in question, and terrorised old people in their gardens. Those responsible for advertising and directing mobs to environmentally sensitive locations bear a responsibility for any damaged caused.

          http://web.onetel.net.uk/~wcswift/

    2. FuzzyWuzzys

      Re: The first pic

      Well maybe, as a someone who spends every weekend shooting pics on the streets of London at all times of the night and day, the coppers are the most thoughtful and respectful people I know. They know the law, they've had the right training to deal with the public and, touch wood, I've yet to meet a bad copper while I've been out shooting even during stressful times. I met a couple of very cheery coppers the day after the Westminster attack, we had a good chat and they were all about calming people and letting them know that it's all business as usual for everyone. Nice blokes.

      The ones you need to worry about are the private security guards with 0.4 secs of sensitivity and "legal" training who think they know the law better than anyone and simply think cameras are illegal, full stop. The others are the paranoid nosey mob who will run and tell every copper going that someone ( shock, horror! ) has a camera and is using it in a public place!

  2. Your alien overlord - fear me

    If this stops future Pokemon Go games I'm all for it.

    Otherwise in the current climate you'll have HuntTheJihadi type games where you go around mosques and find the Muslims.*Other religions are available.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Don't forget...

      ...atheists are the first to go.

    2. Bernard M. Orwell
      Facepalm

      "If this stops future Pokemon Go games I'm all for it."

      Why? Don't you like Pokémon Go? I get that.

      Personally, I f'in loathe football. All those crowds in the city with their stupid chanting and drinking.. and the damage and litter they cause! Utterly unbearable.

      If this stops future football games I'm all for it.

      [In case you missed the sarcasm, there is some there if you look hard enough.]

  3. Kevin Johnston

    a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

    Really, Really? That is the best they could some up with?

    So in short, private companies want to monetise public spaces with no responsibility for the consequences and they wonder that the guardians of those public spaces have said 'Bog off'?

    Most people stop scraping the barrel when they wear a hole in the bottom, others it seem decide that the barrel is of infinite depth and so anything in or under the barrel is theirs to mine

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

      Apart from the taxes on purchases made in the area, I find all of the requirements fairly sound.

      If you, as a company, are going to send hundreds or thousands of people trapsing over a piece of property, then you should take responsibility for their actions, should they cause damage.

      If, for example, the "cards" are placed in the middle of a flower bed and hundreds of people trample the flowers, then the company should be responsible for compensating the owner of the gardens, the council in this case.

      Providing toilets and organising parking are borderline, but sensible, if you are sending thousands of extra people into an area. If you throw a concert, you have to pay for a permit, you have to organise security and you have to provide toilets and parking. Those don't affect the first amendment rights of the artist. I don't see much of a difference here, if the games company wants to have huge crowds of people congregate in real locations.

      If it is 1 or 2 users a month, that is something different, but if you are talking about hundreds or thousands extra on a given day, it is only fair that they are responsible for additional costs incured at the location.

      1. 2Nick3

        Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

        I completely agree with your comparison to a concert - this is the same thing. You are attracting people to a location for entertainment purposes, so you need a permit. To get that permit, you need to provide facilities (toilets and parking) and security, or pay for them to be provided. Just because the crowds will be people intently staring at their phone screens instead of a stage doesn't change it.

        1. Phil Bennett

          Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

          These days, people at concerts tend to be staring at their phone screens (while taking horrible quality videos of the gig).

          Actually, I wonder if that counts as AR and we can make Apple/Samsung/Google liable to pay for the toilets etc...

        2. yowl00

          Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

          What about that book that was a treasure hunt, it attracted people to locations.

        3. oldcoder

          Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

          By that standard, putting a military base should also be sued for making the neighborhood a target...

          Or a police station for collecting criminals to an area...

          A firestation for messing up traffic flow...

          A school for attracting delinquents...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

            Just for the sheer sake of debate

            Why not send a maximum of a dozen people to one location on one day, once that limit is reached, you choose another location in the area that is a couple of miles away for the next dozen or so and so on. You spread the impact and you don't have any flash mobs destroying property.

            You couldn't do it by numbers because you have no idea of how many users you're going to end up having...it only takes someone famous to tweet about it and you have 10x the users overnight.

            You could send people to different places as they come in...sort of load balancing...and you could even have a bit of flexibility there so you're not splitting up groups of friends who are playing together. So you'd end up with a bunch of smaller flash mobs, so a partial cure; but that's not the main problem.

            The main problem is that you have to map every public park in Wisconsin. That is a large task.

            1. Kiwi

              Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

              Why not send a maximum of a dozen people to one location on one day, once that limit is reached, you choose another location in the area..

              You couldn't do it by numbers because you have no idea of how many users you're going to end up having...it only takes someone famous to tweet about it and you have 10x the users overnight.

              Course you can. It's quite easy. As people come in, they get pointed to the first location. Once you get to your limit (whether in one hit or over the course of a few hours) you start on another. If your game proves too popular then, like so many other websites have been doing for the couple of decades, you either slow down the overall rates or stop any newcomers from arriving, ie only so many connections until you can provide more resources.

              you could even have a bit of flexibility there so you're not splitting up groups of friends who are playing together.

              How many groups of a dozen or so people would remain together for very long before splitting up into 2 or 3 smaller groups? I haven't ever seen a group that large survive for long on a walkabout before splitting into several smaller groups without some strong oversight, and that was only effective at the first few years of primary school. But yes, build in to the game a group-players thing (with limits in the group sizes, if someone somehow manages to get a group of 10k then your problem is back).

              The main problem is that you have to map every public park in Wisconsin. That is a large task.

              The state of Wisconsin may be larger than NZ (I simply do not know), however. I have a tablet with a couple of bits of free GPS navigation software, each connected to the freely available "Open Street Maps". They have a large amount of the public parks and other locations/facilities already marked. Some other maps, also freely available, have other stuff already marked as well. I'm sure these could be used as a starting point (with appropriate donations made to the makers if you actually do get money for a product that uses them, only scum make large profits of the backs of other's voluntary labour!). And again, it's about taking responsibility for your users actions. Make it reasonable safe, expect (and be prepared) to pay to mitigate damage, or don't make it at all.

            2. handlex2

              Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

              Load balance them across the Milwaukee City Council members addresses. The don't freak out with all the folks randomly showing up and getting drunk at summer fest.

            3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

              "The main problem is that you have to map every public park in Wisconsin."

              Not really. Just the places which may require permission to use AND you choose to use them.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

        To offer a counter-argument, just for the sake of being awkward, there is no way of telling how popular your game is going to be when you're making it; which is presumably when you're supposed to be getting all these permits and lodging $1m. It's a lot of money up front to add to an already risky business and would have the effect of totally carving out the little guys.

        1. lglethal Silver badge
          Go

          Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

          @ moiety - just a small counter argument:

          "there is no way of telling how popular your game is going to be when you're making it;"

          That is also true of holding a concert or any sort of live event - but either way you still need to get a permit and put up the cash to hold the event, whether your expecting to sell out a 40k person arena, or are just hoping the 200 people you need to break even come through...

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

            "That is also true of holding a concert or any sort of live event"

            A counter-counter argument for you....just because I'm feeling cantankerous and not because I have a horse in this particular race...a live event is different in 2 major ways:

            Firstly, the physical venue. It'll cost you a certain amount to hire a particular venue -scales up with size- you then know the capacity; and roughly your insurance, security and advertising arrangements. You work to up to your venue's capacity and the ticket price will reflect that. You're not going to go over, because you can stop selling tickets (unless you're an airline and therefore an unprincipled tosspot) and you hope you don't go too far under capacity and drop a bucket of money.

            Secondly, you're talking about one venue or cluster of them for a live event. This law is talking about mapping every public park in Wisconsin (or wherever) before you even get started.

            ----

            So as a game developer, do you a) drop $1m up front and make/obtain public park maps of Wisconsin and then get permits for them or do you put a notice in the EULA that you can't download it if you live in Wisconsin?

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

              @moety on the other hand, if this is a wake-up call to software developers to actually think about the impact their games can have in the real world and change the way the game works, to minimize the impact on particular locations, then the threat has worked.

              These items are virtual, so why send everyone to the same location? Why not send a maximum of a dozen people to one location on one day, once that limit is reached, you choose another location in the area that is a couple of miles away for the next dozen or so and so on. You spread the impact and you don't have any flash mobs destroying property.

            2. Kiwi

              Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

              .a live event is different in 2 major ways:

              Firstly, the physical venue.

              Lots of "free" concerts are held in public spaces here in NZ. Sports fields, national parks (I think, struggling to recall any), other public spaces (Frank Kitt's park on the waterfront in Wellington being a common one). I'm pretty sure at least someone in the US has figured out a way to monetize such events, and I'm sure someone over there has figured out a way to put a couple of dozen laws around monetizing such events. If you wanted to hold a free concert in a park in Milwaukee, what would you have to do for it to be allowed? Say you can reasonably expect 10,000 people so show up?

            3. Bernard M. Orwell

              Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

              "A counter-counter argument for you"

              When a city plays host to a major sporting event, and thousands of visitors descend on said metropolis, who is liable for the cleanup? The sporting club? The owners of the venue? The City authorities? Is a surcharge applied to the ticket price to cover the *anticipated* costs of damage and litter?

              If some of those attending such an event then cause criminal damage to the civic amenities in public areas, who is liable? Do the authorities pursue those committing the damage or the club hosting the event?

        2. Kiwi
          Boffin

          Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

          To offer a counter-argument, just for the sake of being awkward, there is no way of telling how popular your game is going to be when you're making it; which is presumably when you're supposed to be getting all these permits and lodging $1m. It's a lot of money up front to add to an already risky business and would have the effect of totally carving out the little guys.

          While I agree that $1m up front will be problematic especially for smaller firms, I can also see the problem that should players cause damage then the money is needed beforehand. What if the players cause even $100,000 in a county, and the company folds rather than pays up? Should the taxpayers cover the damage while the owners of the company set up an identical company in another name, with the profits safely in some bank account or other (assuming the area has the sort of "limited liability" companies we have here, ie if the company folds owning money the owners aren't liable for a cent more than they put into the business)?

          Make it a bond, ie if there's a reasonable chance that damage is caused by the players at a given time, then the money comes from the bond, if not then the bond is returned after the event.

          Given the value of some plants, it's quite conceivable that a group of greedy idiots only caring about getting the "card" or other item in a location, not caring about what is there or getting to said item without damaging stuff around them, will do damage. As the numbers increase, throw in a number of drunken louts, pricks with an over-inflated sense of entitlement/"rights", and a few dozen over-excited but under-coordinated teens rushing about, and you quickly get a lot of damage, especially with any valuable flower beds that normal people would admire, maybe take pictures of, and then move on.

          Oh, in some areas, at the right time of year, a carelessly dropped match or cigarette butt, or a hot exhaust of a car parked in the wrong place, and in a few minutes you can have far more than $1m of damage done.

          On the bond idea: to aid smaller companies, maybe it can be some form of insurance, fully recoverable from the owners? The better they handle the behaviour of their users, the lower the premium. And with a personal liability they'll surely take care to make sure their players are responsible. Of course, they can nut that out with their insurer, the county could be satisfied that the cover is there and not actually need $1mil up front so long as, if stuff is damaged, they get compensation.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

            The $1 million is in "general liability coverage". It's not a fee that you actually have to pay up front, it's an insurance policy that you have to take out against the likelihood of being sued at a later date.

            Seen in that light, it's very reasonable. Probably not much more expensive than 3rd-party car insurance.

          2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

            Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

            "While I agree that $1m up front will be problematic especially for smaller firms,"

            A $million of liability insurance doesn't actually cost a £million you know.

            1. Kiwi

              Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

              "While I agree that $1m up front will be problematic especially for smaller firms,"

              A $million of liability insurance doesn't actually cost a £million you know.

              The way I read the article was that they wanted a million bond or somesuch, not insurance. Fully agree the insurance would be much better.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

        If you, as a company, are going to send hundreds or thousands of people trapsing over a piece of property, then you should take responsibility for their actions, should they cause damage.

        The company was very irresponsible and insensitive - having "placed" things in military bases, in restricted areas of hospitals, police stations, the 9/11 monument, the Holocaust Memorial Museum.....

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

      >So in short, private companies want to monetise public spaces

      Like those National Geographic bastards with their pictures encouraging people to visit national parks

      1. Richard Plinston

        Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

        > with their pictures encouraging people to visit national parks

        Actually, they are providing pictures so that you don't have to visit national parks.

    3. wayne 8

      Re: a Mortal Threat...to augmented reality games

      Thank you. Saved me a posting.

      It is not like they are shutting down Speakers Corner.

      Okay, I am posting.

      Active US military wasted our time playing Pokemon Go? Are the skilz transferable to remote killing of enemies of the State?

      I see where this could go.

      Citizens are connected to a government AR app. The app forms a crowd and sends the crowd after non compliant Citizens. Citizens gain privileges by success in the game. Win win.

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

  5. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    I rather approve of a ban.

    The regulations appear basically to prevent AR games from being set in public park areas at all unless a game company very much wants to go to that place. And that seems to me to be quite a good solution. The game would simply have to avoid putting any game resources in the park geography (probably including other game players).

    On the other hand, there are worse places to play these games in - such as public streets.

    1. Ian Michael Gumby
      Boffin

      Re: I rather approve of a ban.

      I agree. it would be very easy to put up geo-spatial boundaries around private property and public areas.

      However, here's the thing.

      The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

      Its going to be a tough call.

      1. Mystic Megabyte
        Stop

        Re: I rather approve of a ban. @IanGumby

        "The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park."

        Yes but you and I would be stopped from, say, selling beer in the park. If this game has in-app purchases then it could fall under the same regulations.

      2. big_D Silver badge

        Re: I rather approve of a ban.

        The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

        Yes and no, if the game is causing thousands of extra people to be going through the area, and possibly causing damage (E.g. walking over plants to get to hidden items), the company has a responsibility to cover any excessive "wear and tear" to the area and any damage caused by inconsiderate gamers.

        Whether the company then tries to identify the inconsiderate games and get their money back is another matter.

        If I want to throw a concert or other event in a location, I have to get permits and liability insurance, how is this any different?

      3. JulieM

        Re: I rather approve of a ban.

        However, here's the thing.

        The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

        Its going to be a tough call.

        People have a right to go through the park; but on the other hand, someone wanting to organise an event -- especially one for which admission is charged -- in the park attracting people there would have to apply for permission, which may be granted subject to conditions. For instance, you may be required to supply additional portable toilet facilities, arrange any necessary liquor and public performance licences and provide security and medical personnel.

        What did they use to call it, when somebody arranged a gathering on someone else's land, inviting people in the name of entertainment; and not caring that the grass was being churned up to mud, the bushes were being pissed and shat in, the flower beds puked in and the local residents pissed off, because they would not have to pay for any of the damage?

      4. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: I rather approve of a ban.

        The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

        That's the long and short of it right there. Why they do so do is their business.

        Also, the company didn't trash the park, the people did. They should have been fined, not the company.

        This case fails on so many levels. and is a frivolous lawsuit. But I'll bet they win it. I hope I'm wrong.

      5. Kiwi

        Re: I rather approve of a ban.

        The park is a public area. So people have a right to go thru the park.

        vs "people have a right to damage the park"

        Which is the problem.

        Get a small crowd together, 99% of the time you'll be fine. Get a crowd where the object is to "capture" some item somewhere in the vicinity and you'll have problems. Get a large crowd, and you'll have all sorts of problems.

        I can think of a huge number of parks within walking distance that I have every right to use. Doesn't mean I can take my bike and do burn-outs on the cricket pitch, pull out the flowers for use in my own home, take a dump on a pathway just because I don't want to wait due to a lack of provision of toilets etc etc.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I rather approve of a ban.

      All they need to do is to make sure the game involves chasing objects in the augmented reality world at speed through park, then name the game pARkrun and world+dog will be pitching into to complain at anyone daring to try to stop it!

      1. Kiwi
        Trollface

        Re: I rather approve of a ban.

        All they need to do is to make sure the game involves chasing objects in the augmented reality world at speed through park, then name the game pARkrun and world+dog will be pitching into to complain at anyone daring to try to stop it!

        HOW DARE YOU! Surely you know it's a capital offence to promote exercise in the presence of Americans!

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: pARkrun

        I see that you refer to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkrun#Conflicts_with_local_authorities

        Controversial! :-)

    3. Kiwi
      Joke

      Re: I rather approve of a ban.

      On the other hand, there are worse places to play these games in - such as public streets.

      I dunno. Given the apparent nature of many playing some of these games, it could be a huge boost to the gene pool while also a significant population reduction, with flow-on benefits to reducing pollution, housing demand, unemployment and so on..

      (Wonder how many will ignore the "joke alert" icon.. Seriously, I mean it as a joke! Costs way to much to clean up the damage an idiot does to the front of the car!)

  6. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    What about just no. AR is nice and all that, but rather keep it at home (or in a controlled environment) but just not in public spaces.

  7. Trollslayer
    Flame

    How dare they

    expect us to take responsibility for problems we cause!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "[...] but just not in public spaces."

    In a more general way AR is useful in public spaces. It allows the equivalent of expanded "blue plaques" or other information on features of interest.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      But that is very different to causing flash mobs and causing damage...

  9. frank ly

    Do you remember ....

    .... When small, cheap drones were thought of as a cool new thing that would be useful and fun? Then idiots started using them and doing stupid and dangerous things with them.

    P.S. "...it's not so much game visuals invading the real world, ..."

    Well, no. If that did happen, there would be an urgent need for legislation.

    1. Anonymous C0ward

      Re: Do you remember ....

      If that happened, there wouldn't be an urgent need for legislation, there would be an urgent need for taking less hallucinogens.

  10. JulieM

    Actually seems reasonable to me

    If you want to organise an event, even in a so-called public park, you generally have certain responsibilities relating to the welfare of those people and the land. And just because you are bringing people by means of messages on mobile devices saying "go to place X to score points in this game" and not by, say, erecting a stage and having a live music performance, does not diminish your responsibilities.

    The local council are responsible for the "residual level" of occupancy; but if you are going to bring large numbers of additional people (complete with mud-churning boots, full bladders and bowels and bags of over-packaged food and drink that will end up as litter) then that places an onus onto you.

    There were already rules in place for doing things; and even if you think you have found a new way of doing more or less the same thing in a new way that requires the use of an electronic device, those rules still apply to you.

    1. Justicesays

      Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

      On the other hand, a manufacturer of Frisbees, Skateboards or Bikes has no requirement to pay off any park that might or might not allow the use of those articles. Instead it's the user of those items that have to pay attention to the laws in place, and/or request any exceptions for events etc. that they might want to organize.

      Nor are the manufacturers required to modify their equipment with "geofences" that would prevent them being used in certain locations.

      In addition, the people using these apps and visiting these parks are almost certainly residents of the areas the parks are in, and therefore paying for these facilities through their taxes.

      Augmented reality apps normally require people to walk around looking at a smart-phone, generally no different than anyone else who visits a park these days!

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

        On the other hand, the manufacturers of frisbees are not trying to organize thousands of people to turn up for an event in the park. If they do organize an event, to have hundreds or thousands of frisbee owners to turn up in the park, they need to first obtain a permit and they need to have liability insurance for the event, they need to ensure that they have enough toilets and parking etc.

        And they need to pay for any damage caused to the property during the course of the event.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

          Frisbees (other flying discs are available) and balls are not geolocation limited. They work anywhere.

          Plus a variety of percentage of parks have "no ball games allowed" up, so yeah, learn to compare apples with apples.

          1. veti Silver badge

            Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

            There's nothing to stop a park from putting up signs "No augmented reality games allowed", if it comes to that.

        2. My other car is an IAV Stryker Silver badge

          Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

          Likewise, the makers of any AR app that determines pick-up locations for each user individually should not have a problem. It is up to each user to decide whether to use the app and make the pick-up. Pokémon Go's system of offering the SAME item to ALL users at the SAME time is similar to an organized event.

          So, the logical legislation is this: Geospatial pickups limited to X users within Y hours for a given location with radius of Z distance (in standard Reg units, of course). As X users hit one spot, the next X users will have to go Z distance away for the next drop until Y time passes. Let X, Y, and Z be variable based on geography, population density, et cetera. This sets upper limits acceptable at the crossroads between rural farms and the urban parks downtown and everywhere in between.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

            Pokemon does not offer the same item to all users. Quite a few did complain at last count that they could not get anything without travelling 20 miles to the nearest town.

            Limiting by location and time also is not a solution. It creates more of a rush not less. As more people want to get there before the timer or location limit runs out. Where as a constant unlimited drop feed in all locations means not one rushes anywhere. They just go where they would normally. They only travel in general more often. They don't crowd.

            You lot need to learn to avoid unintended consequences and shooting your own feet.

            1. big_D Silver badge

              Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

              You don't show 1000 people an item is a location X, then count down 12 visitors and say the limit is reached.

              You show X users that the object is there, the next X1 users are shown the object at Y1, which is Z away from Y and so on.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

                Still the same problem. Is X Y Z or "out of my arse" any better than the actual people who own the park or shop or location? You all look about as clever as Google and Steam in thinking an algorithm can outsmart actual data.

                The location will have a limit to how many people can go there. The users will have a limit on travel distance (some may have a disability). Your game/algorithm and you cannot guess it. Either know these things and work with them, or just allow a random drip feed that is equal for everyone but made to look less random for gameplay reasons.

                1. Kiwi
                  WTF?

                  Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

                  The location will have a limit to how many people can go there. The users will have a limit on travel distance (some may have a disability). Your game/algorithm and you cannot guess it.

                  How can that work? If the game (or other app) cannot tell where phone is located, then by definition/really simply logic that even you should be able to grasp, it cannot tell if the person has reached the location.

                  It doesn't need to guess. We have this thing called "GPS" which is good enough to be able to tell where you are within a very short range, down to a few metres. That's how it knows you've "picked up" or "caught" the item in question.

                  As to limits on travel distance, the game is hardly likely to be pointing people to stuff any considerable distance from where they are, and it's trivial to set up things like "don't put stuff more than 20k from users". Few people with disabilities would be likely to be traipsing around the countryside anyway, though the quality of your argument suggests you might be talking from the POV of those who are "differently abled".

                  You can make an app that when a person registers, they tell it of their own travel limits. Or do you think computers are quite limited and can only handle one item at one location no matter how many users are registered or where they are? Trust me, even crappy computers can keep track of several hundred items, locations, and users.

      2. JulieM

        Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

        But the manufacturers of Frisbees, cricket bats and stumps, bicycles, portable radios, spacehoppers, kites, footballs, rollerblades, musical instruments, play weapons and assorted outdoor toys are not encouraging anyone towards a specific place, and the kids who play with them, and the adults aupervising them, really are among the already-planned-for park occupants. Creating an Augmented Reality game that requires the player to attend a specific location is rather different.

        You can ride a skateboard or strum a guitar more or less anywhere, and if a particular park looks a bit crowded, just go somewhere else or come back later. But tying a game to a specific location is more like setting up an event that will drive additional traffic there. And organising an event on someone else's land is exactly the sort of thing that requires prior arrangement, precisely because you will be expecting more people than normal, therefore more need to provide for their welfare and mitigate against damage to the land.

        If you tried to organise a fun day in a public park without so much as informing the council of your intentions, you might well expect consequences ..... Especially if you are a business based in another jurisdiction (and so paying rates to a different council) and you are charging admission.

      3. ecofeco Silver badge

        Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

        Exactly. This was not an organized event. It was people taking their personal property and using it in a public space.

      4. Kiwi

        Re: Actually seems reasonable to me

        On the other hand, a manufacturer of Frisbees, Skateboards or Bikes has no requirement to pay off any park that might or might not allow the use of those articles.

        When they have an organised event, yes they do actually. At least in most locales I am aware of. If you have a large beach, you'll see a relatively small number of people (probably less than 1% but I am guesstimating!) with frisbees/balls etc, and these people generally limit themselves to a small area where they're not harrassing other users of the area. They're "in competition" with one or two mates, or just having a bit of father/son time, that sort of thing. But the people at organised events (including the AR stuff this article is about) are in competition for a limited resource (I assume they don't put enough cards for everyone in every location), and as such you'll see competitiveness which leads to combativeness which, in large/stupid enough crowds, leads to injury and damage.

        Likewise, a mountain bike track will see a small number of people use it every day. An organised event will see thousands more people there, but there are rules of conduct, rate-limiting (they send one person down every few seconds, each racing the clock; not several at once trying to race each other!), emergency staff on hand to treat the inevitable injuries, and of course responsible people who clean up after the event and do what they can to mitigate/repair damage. Vastly different to what happened with the Pokemon stuff from what reports I saw (very few TBH), and vastly different from what these games have the potential to cause if not managed. (I have no problem with AR games, they're a larger version of the "treasure hunts" and the like I enjoyed in my younger days, but those events were managed, limited numbers, people to make sure damage was prevented or dealt with etc, and I expect the same of any company wishing to organise any event)

        In addition, the people using these apps and visiting these parks are almost certainly residents of the areas the parks are in, and therefore paying for these facilities through their taxes.

        I pay all sorts of road etc taxes. Is it OK for me to grab a pick-axe and start digging up the street? I pay rates, can I put a hole in a nearby water main? A portion of the taxes I pay goes towards the fire service and the maintenance of the local parks. Can I carelessly toss matches around?

        No?

        Same diff.

  11. The Nazz

    What a wonderful opportunity.

    The Government/authorities should do two things.

    a) pass the long overdue laws that executives and management of companies/corporations/organistions are personally held liable for, and prosecuted for, criminal acts they commit, cause to be committed.

    b) partner with such as Candy Lab to provide the augmented reality service to the subsequent inmates so that they can visualise themselves as being out in he free world rather than being locked up in chokey.

    At a cost of $X per annum where X=personal assets pre crime/years of sentence.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: What a wonderful opportunity.

      Actually, what they should do is tell their citizens, "Hey, I see you've been enjoying our parks a lot more lately. Would you mind contributing an extra couple dollars to their upkeep, so you can continue to enjoy them?"

      Surprisingly, people are a lot more willing to pay taxes for services they know they use, rather than the abstract ones that someone else's kid uses.

      1. Kiwi
        Thumb Up

        Re: What a wonderful opportunity.

        "Hey, I see you've been enjoying our parks a lot more lately. Would you mind contributing an extra couple dollars to their upkeep, so you can continue to enjoy them?"

        That's a great idea, though people might not be so willing to contribute as much as they could.

        What could be done though, is that they could be charged a micro-payment, like say $1/app, and that money goes to the manufacturer who then divies it up and makes payments to the counties where the app is used, based on number of users and so on.

        Which brings us back to.... :)

  12. DavCrav Silver badge

    Let the fun begin

    So this is a park. Should a 'game' that provides a head-up display with pulse rate, breathing, distance travelled, etc., for joggers be banned? Surely not, that's a health app, right? What about one that encourages you to go further with XP and levels, sharing results, and so on? Still a health app, or now a game? Should it be banned?

    What about one that encourages people to run in small groups, that gave XP to the whole party? Ban now?

    And so on.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      Re: Let the fun begin

      "So this is a park. Should a 'game' that provides a head-up display with pulse rate, breathing, distance travelled, etc., for joggers be banned?"

      Is it a game that specifically encourages people who would not otherwise be jogging to all congregate in one particular location within that park? If so, then probably yes. If not, then it's no different from Strava and other similar apps which include many aspects of these games but which do not result in large mobs trashing places they wouldn't normally visit at all. Indeed, while Strava allows people to create sections for others to follow and compare times on, it also allows them to be marked as dangerous and removed if it turns out their in a place that people shouldn't be encouraged to trample all over.

      In fact, Strava is a perfect example of exactly how these things should be done. You can encourage people to get out and do things, you can allow them to compare efforts and play around with various gamified things, but you can do so in a sensible manner that doesn't involve getting thousands of people to trash public spaces for no reason.

  13. Flakk

    Jack Thompson... pwned

    Leigh Alexander... pwned

    Leland Yee... pwned

    I think I'm going to bet on the gamers.

  14. DropBear

    BOLLOCKS. If I choose to publish an app that overlays a Santa Claus at the top of the Eiffel Tower whenever you point your phone at it, guess what, I don't need your permission to do that, and you don't get to impose any rules / taxes / whatever your black little heart desires on me. NONE. You're welcome to arrest and/or lock away anybody crazy enough to try to climb the tower to touch Santa, but that's not my problem and you can't make it so.

    Which is not to say I can't see the irrelevant busybodies emit stern dictats excommunicating all of the above (oh, of course I can) I'm just saying I recognize NONE OF IT as legitimate, and am willing to do exactly just enough to keep myself out of trouble, not thinking twice about taking the first loophole I can find (then the next one if you close the first). It's - not - your - call.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Your app:

      Does not cause a crowd at a location. Your app puts a change to a location. You are applying information and communication.

      If your app requested, through points or gameplay or by design, all users to go to a specific location, you will be liable for that request.

      But just saying a user can go to a location and can see some data or media is different to the proposal. However if your app cries fire in a crowded area, expect someone to get angry about it (though legally unenforcable).

    2. JulieM

      Under French law, you actually almost certainly would need permission for your app. Because in France, taking photographs of things that belong to other people is not a right but a privilege, bestowed by the owner of those things; and if the Parisian authorities want to charge tourists a few Euros for a selfie with the Tower in shot, the Law is on their side.

      If you wanted to put a real Papa Noël on the Eiffel Tower, then the Parisian Authorities would have to be involved. You might have found a way not actually to have to pay someone to wear a red suit and a white beard and say "Ho Ho Ho" a lot; but the people who will be turning up to the Tower to see your virtual Santa are no less real, and neither are the consequences.

      1. Adam 52 Silver badge

        That is a slightly simplistic interpretation of the law.

        It's not just France, applies to all countries that have adopted s.4 of the Berne Convention.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Getting an Eiffel

        I thought it was reported here... photographing the Eiffel Tower is now out of copyright; however, the lights on the Eiffel Tower at night are a legally protected copyright artwork. Sticking Santa Claus on top doesn't alter that, but you may be able to claim a parody defence. Unless they put a Santa on the real tower first.

    3. Kiwi
      FAIL

      I don't need your permission to do that, and you don't get to impose any rules / taxes / whatever your black little heart desires on me.

      What's your address? I want to nominate your garden1 as one of these locations. You can't impose any rules etc on me just like others can't impose rules on you..

      And I'll make sure no one pays for any damage, because that would be "imposing a tax", even though I hope to make a considerable amount of damage.

      Oh of course, that's different isn't it? Ok when it destroys places others care about, but not so nice when your own enjoyment is at risk.

      1 Or bedroom, if you don't have a garden. I'm sure someone will find something of interest in there!

      1. Bernard M. Orwell

        "What's your address? I want to nominate your garden"

        There's a distinction to be had here, chap, between private and public access to property.

        I don't have the legal right to enter your garden to take pictures, for example, but there's no law to stop me taking a picture of your garden from outside the boundaries. You could of course put up a fence to prevent me doing so, that's your right, and I'd have no legal right to circumvent that fence to obtain a picture, but as it stands, if your garden is 'on view' in a public space, I can take a picture of it.

        1. Kiwi

          I don't have the legal right to enter your garden to take pictures, for example, but there's no law to stop me taking a picture of your garden from outside the boundaries.

          The point I was replying to was where the OP said :

          I don't need your permission to do that, and you don't get to impose any rules / taxes / whatever your black little heart desires on me.

          Given the "you" here would indicate local councils and the like, it would indicate that the OP doesn't believe he should follow the law of the land. So, if it's OK for him to ignore whatever rules he likes about property that belongs to the rest of us, especially rules to protect that property from damage, then why should we be bound by those same rules to respect his property?

  15. Charlie van Becelaere

    "Congressional Caucus on Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Reality Technologies for the 115th Congress."

    Shouldn't that be the Caucus on Virtual and Augmented Reality with Mixed and Integrated Technologies (VARMINT)?

    I thought Congressfolk always went for acronymous groups and legislation.

    That aside, I think I probably agree with the "ban" and most of the various requirements set by the county in question.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
      Pint

      VARMINT!!

      Excellent! Have a pint!

  16. John 104

    I say, let them have their ordinance. then go to town on it. A 1 million liability policy is super cheap. I carry 2 million on myself and its a couple hundred a year. Order in a few hundred porta-potties and have them placed on the park, occupying all sorts of space. Tie up resources from the city or county in managing all of it. when it starts to cost them money, they may just change their tune...

    1. Kiwi

      when it starts to cost them money, they may just change their tune...

      Yeah, "Now a $2million bond with $200,000 application fee". Or "Outright ban, anyone caught participating will be liable to no less than $1million fine or one year in prison". Etc etc.

      (Again, I would much rather see these AR games succeed and get people off their over-wide couches and outside exercising (including me!) , but done in a way that minimizes/mitigates risk/damage)

  17. Long John Brass
    Headmaster

    Could you not argue rights of assembly?

    Rather than free speech?

    If you can penalise game companies for driving a massive horde or gamers though a public park

    Then could they not do the same to the GPS maps people who drive a horde of traffic thought some tranquil little backwater?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Could you not argue rights of assembly?

      You could. But I'm not sure doing so in some of the places listed is still a right?

      Shops for instance?

    2. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Could you not argue rights of assembly?

      Even the freedom of assembly can be restricted in the name of the greater good. That's why parades need to be organized and sanctioned. Even "impromptu" assemblies like picket lines usually are limited in where they can demonstrate. Fire codes impose occupancy limits for buildings to help prevent crushes in the event of an emergency, and so on.

  18. Cheshire Cat

    Wont somebody think of the flowers?

    So - this county wants to ban AR games, because someone irresponsible might walk on their flower beds while playing them.

    However I bet they don't want to ban sales of assault rifles because someone might use them to commit murder.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Wont somebody think of the flowers?

      Priorities, man! Priorities!

  19. DaddyHoggy

    I'm not surprised in the drop in users of Pokemon Go. My 9yo loved - we would walk for miles with the app, visiting historic sites around the area, but with each 'update' it would become more and more buggy, crash (or fail to start) more often, up to the point where it became unusable and none of the 'fixes' infact fixed anything.

  20. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    I almost hit a number of people as I was biking near a park in my home town during the height of the Pokemon-Go craze. These were not just kids, but mainly grown-ups (including parents setting a wonderful example) who just rushed off the pavement onto the bike lane without looking. Fortunately I had my wits about me and my brakes are in excellent order, and I managed to dodge at least 6 different people in just 5 minutes. Not ideal by any standards.

    First and foremost, it is the users of the AR app that are responsible for their own conduct, but it is a good idea if companies think about the locations they set, and avoid certain spaces. I am not sure how, or even if this should be legislated, but observations suggest that merely relying on common sense of users is not sufficient, alas. Here in the Netherlands the users could be fined under the catch-all clause of "endangering traffic", even as a pedestrian, and if they trample things they could also be charged with vandalism, but I do not think the companies could be charged with anything.

  21. cortland

    That's interesting

    As I understand the intent of these restrictions, it could also ban flash mobs organized by smartphone and Twitter.

    Verizon delenda est, eh?

  22. tiggity Silver badge

    Silly

    It's not about organized events - the Pokemon Go example was players of the game spreading news of hard to get Pokemon being in that particular park area. Obviously unfortunate timing as the rare Pokemon happened when game at peak popularity / numbers and a big (but shortlived) craze: Essentially a flash mob type of scenario (would be no different to say a very rare bird arriving in a park and the news being spread and lots of keen bird watchers going to park to see it)

    Niantic (makers of Pokemon Go) do have some organized events (can't speak about PoGo, but I know they do for another AR game of theirs, Ingress). For the organized Ingress events there is always liaison / permission from relevant authorities for the events (which tend to be city wide, not in a small area).

    Can't speak about the Candy poker game, but Niantic AR games have locations all over the place (over 5 million locations in Ingress when someone produced figures a while ago).

    So most AR locations do not get huge numbers of people attracted there.

    Ironically, locations chosen are often things "of interest" (FSVO interest, obv. opinions vary) but aim to get people out in the fresh air walking, so would be churches, statues, plaques etc. Parks often have statues and other things of interest so quite common locations.

    But hey, extremely rare events are often drivers of bad legislation (stares at certain UK politicians response to terrorism)

    It's not about organized events - the Pokemon Go example was players of the game spreading news of hard to get Pokemon being in that particular park area. Obviously unfortunate timing as the rare pokemon happend when game at peak popularity / numbers and a big (but shortlived) craze: Essentially a flash mob type of scenario (would be no different to say a very rare bird arriving in a park and the news being spread and lots of keen bird watchers going to park to see it)

    Niantic (makers of Polemon Go) do have some organized events (can't speak about PoGo, but I know they do for another AR game of theirs, Ingress). For the organized Ingress events there is always liason / permission from relevant authrioties for the events (which tend to be city wide, not in a small area).

    Can't speak about the Candy poker game, but Niantic AR games have locations all over the place (over 5 million locations in Ingress when someone produced figures a while ago).

    So most AR locations do not get huge numbers of people attracted there.

    Ironically, locations chosen are often things "of interest" (FSVO interst, obv. opinions vary) but aim to get people out in the fesh air walking, so would be churches, statues, plaques etc. Parks often have statues and other things of interst so quite common locations.

    But hey, extremely rare events are often drivers of bad legislation (stares at certain UK politicians response to terrorism)

    Disclosure, Do not work for Niantic / have any affiliations with them, but have played their game Ingress & attended organised (fully cleared with authorities) events.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Re: Silly

      Yep. Someone organising free food in a park is not a problem and less a risk. Someone offering a million dollars in the middle of a busy motorway with the ticket glued to the ground asking for VR confirmation is.

      Yes it's a silly example, yes it's the fault of the users as well. But they did put pokemon in the lakes!

      Since when has it been the fault of the user 100% of the time?

  23. John Savard Silver badge

    My take

    While the content of virtual reality games can and should enjoy First Amendment protection, wandering around a public place with your nose stuck in a smartphone or tablet, at the risk of bumping into people, constitutes action, not speech, and is properly subject to regulation.

    That the kind of regulations proposed could indeed make VR gaming of the type seen in Pokemon Go impossible may indicate that they're unreasonably onerous, but that is an area where quite rightly the courts are loath to second-guess legislators.

  24. Cynic_999 Silver badge

    Difficult one

    I can see both sides to this. On the one hand such games do indeed attract more people to a park than the park may be able to handle without additional facilities. But on the other hand that is not much different to what happens when a TV documentary or popular YouTube video features a particular venue, and we would not ask the maker of a documentary that shows XYZ park in a very good light to provide additional facilities to cope with the extra people it will inevitably attract.

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Re: Difficult one

      What about the aforementioned Eiffel Tower scenario where the owner demands a takedown?

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I will add in my next location based game the whole Milwaukee County in the list of off-limit-areas. until the citizen in that county pressure the county sdupervisor to revoke that ordinance.

    Of course that exception would also be listed in the appstore in the game description so that nobody in that county would download for playing in that location.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Then what happens when they hear about the game and download it while visiting family in Chicago, THEN go home and find it doesn't work, and the app has no way to know this ahead of time? Sounds like asking for trouble and possible lawyers.

  26. Jase Prasad

    This is so obviously a crucial milestone. The law, which I agree with, is a gamechanger in more ways than one: if it prevails the rise of the machine he's will be rightly stopped. If not, then expect the other thing to happen real quick

  27. Cyril

    It's a Public park

    A public park is meant to be used. If individuals are causing damage to the park they should be individually held responsible for the damage.

    If I started a kite company near a park and people bought my kites by the thousands and went to fly them in the nearest park, I am not responsible for the damage those people cause. They are individuals, individually participating in the same activity. I didn't tell them to go to that park. That's where they chose to go as there was open space and wind.

    When a flower bed gets trampled by a kite flyer or a AR player it doesn't matter which they were doing, the person trampling the flower bed is responsible for the damage. If the city or state tried to hold me responsible for the damage they would get laughed out of court. Same for the AR company.

    The AR company should work with the parks system to create an experience that works for everyone. Randomly created objects should be shunted to the nearest footpath or parking area. So players can enjoy the park and not cause damage. A system should be developed where an organization can send a set of areas and where the game content can be safely moved to to preserve safety and security. It could be an online map where you outline an area, draw on the safe zones and in 15 minutes the game is updated.

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