A popular part of Google’s Mobile World Congress presence has long been the Android Partner Walk, better known to many as the pin chase. This year’s Partner Walk saw a few changes, and gave attendees some new things to do.

This year’s Android Partner Walk was split into two activities – there was the usual tour of Google’s Android partner stands to collect Android pins (oh, and to see what Google’s partners are up to), and an AR version that saw attendees using their phones to scan QR codes to collect virtual animated representations of them.

Over the past few years, the Partner Walk seemed to have become something of a burden for partners with pins on their stands. Past years’ Android pin sets would consist of well over 60+ pins, causing a bit of a frenzy as punters started madly grabbing anything they could in the hopes of later being able to force a trade for rare pins. In 2018 we saw staff on a number of partners’ stands obviously annoyed at the torrent of people coming to their stands, collecting pins, and leaving without interacting with the stand or even showing the slightest interest in what they do.

We had a hunch this might change in the future, and so it did. The physical pins remained at larger partner stands this year, but were reduced in number to just 36 to collect, and an AR Partner Walk app appeared in the Google Play store, promising collectable AR pins.

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This is advantageous for a few reasons, chief amongst them that it means partners don’t need to handle pin hunters at their stands – punters using the app only needed to scan a QR code on the ground nearby to collect a virtual pin.

If you think it sounds a little less fun than collecting physical pins, well, you’d be right – scanning QR codes and looking at the app on your phone is a bit more of a solitary experience than speaking to humans for real pins, but Google’s app developers embraced the opportunity and brought a bit of fun to what could have been a staid and tired checklist.

The AR Partner Walk app instead became a showcase for the company’s AR Core technology, with 3D animated representations of characters from the Partner Walk pins springing to life on the trade show floor, and the app had the ability to snap pictures of them creating a bit of fun for users.

The AR characters themselves were really quite impressive. Google’s AR Core technology allows developers to light scenes dynamically to account for ambient light, so the characters cast shadows that looked realistic and gave them a better presence than a Pokemon for example.

There were 21 QR codes spread throughout Mobile World Congress, and Google used the AR Partner Walk to send attendees to areas of the show that they might not have otherwise visited.

The app also allowed users to place collected AR pin characters in other locations:

After collecting the final AR pin, the app allowed users to see an AR version of a trophy for collecting the set – like the others, it can be placed anywhere you like after collecting it.

It wasn’t all virtual, though – there was also a real-world prize of a Google coffee keep-cup for completing the set. 🙂

Overall we’d say Google’s AR experiment worked well in 2019, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see it play a larger role next year – but we do still like the physical pins.