If Niantic and Nintendo’s new Pokémon GO app has achieved anything (outside of being on its way to surpassing Twitter in user numbers already), it’s been about getting players outside. The app has fast become a wonderful way to meet fellow nerds, and for some, a possible venue for extracurricular opportunities. But hitting the road can be taxing, and already, a few Pokémon GO players have begun to offer personal taxi services to players.
Ideas like this have already stirred in the wake of the game’s slowly-expanding release, and now, one service aims to capitalize on it. PokéWalk describes itself as something close to Lyft — but with a twist. PokéWalkers will walk with your phone in order to catch Pokémon and help you hatch eggs, while you wait at home. Prices start at $10 and increase by distance covered.
A spokesperson for PokeWalk tells Inverse the service is kind of like Uber:
“You’d insert your address and press ‘request a PokeWalker,’ and a PokeWalker will come to your door and take your phone. We’ll make sure the Pokemon game is open, and put it into our patented phone case, which keeps us from going through your phone (by covering the home button). Our PokeWalkers will then walk it the selected distance, and return it back to you. You unlock the case and your phone is all yours - filled with Pokemon!”
The premise might sound fine at first glance, but Pokémon GO is already under fire for its paranoia-inducing app permissions (which Niantic Labs said will change soon), and the idea of someone else walking around with your smartphone might be a little scary. That hasn’t slowed PokeWalk though.
“We’re hoping to launch a beta by the end of this month, and be public by the end of August,” the PokeWalk spokesperson says. “We want to be ready for the east coast before the winter kicks in and it gets too cold to walk long distances.”
Despite still working on a beta, the account has already had to face user questions about its objective.
Unfortunately, as some players have pointed out, the service might very well violate the game’s Terms of Service when it comes to making money off of the app. The social team was a little more than vague in its response:
Regardless, the app’s website boasts $4 million in investments and a team of engineers based in San Francisco, which is standard fare for most one-page start-up sites. Don’t count PokeWalk out, because it’s got dreams of tech start up stardom.
“A lot of startups faced similar roadblocks,” the PokeWalk spokesperson says. “Everybody thought tweeting in only 140 characters would be stupid, or Snapchatting an image that only lasts 10 seconds, but look at those companies now.”
At the end of each walk, the app’s team promises “more Pokemon than when we left, guaranteed.” If your PokéWalker returns without the distance you asked for completed, the company promises that they will “run around the block as fast as we can AND refund your money.”
One of the interesting (and admittedly most confusing parts) of the company’s promises are those that rest within its technology, which might just be a reproduction of Lyft’s UI, and how it promises to save trainers money during the walk. “We optimize for both the distance the walker will cover and how they will get back to drop off your device,” the site reads. “Our backpack technology is derived from the same battery technology as The Tesla Powerwall.” The company says that their professional walkers have collectively walked over 1 million miles, which one might assume means “in the span of their collective lives,” so you know these people are really good at walking.
Additional reporting by Nickolaus Hines.