FAQ: Points of Interest (POI)
Frequently asked Questions, that this thread will answer:
- Why are there so few Inns/Greenhouses/Fortresses where I live?
- What do I need to do to get more Inns/Greenhouses/Fortresses?
- The place that an Inn/Greenhouse/Fortress was created at, is no longer there, how do I fix that?
- An Inn/Greenhouse/Fortress is at an incorrect location, how do I fix that?
- How do I get more Inns/Greenhouses/Fortresses in my Area?
- Why are the Inns/Greenhouses/Fortresses in such weird places?
- What side-effects can occur when new Inns/Greenhouses/Fortresses are added or when old ones are removed?
What is a Point of Interest (aka POI)?
Niantic specializes in Augmented Reality Games, games that take part in the "real world" but that enhance the real world by adding new things or by giving additional features to already existing things.
This overlap between the "real world" and the "game world" falls in 3 categories:
- Stationary, single point
- Stationary, area
The stationary "single point" overlaps are called "Point of Interest" (aka POI). These are objects that exist in the real world but that are given additional features and abilities in the game world. Take Inns for example, in the real world it might be a statue but in the game world it's a building where you can get more Energy.
Stationary "area" overlaps are called "Area of Interest" (AOI). These are places that just like POI, exist in the real world but are given additional features and abilities in the game world. Take "Care of Magical Creatures"-Landmarks for example, in the real world it might be a park but in the game world it's a place where you can find far more Encounters of the Category "Care of Magical Creatures"
What are S2 Cells?
In order to coordinate efforts in the world, a somewhat universal coordination system. And while "GPS" is a nice and very precise measuring system, there are problems and situations that require a systematic approach to "cluster" areas together.
The S2 library defines a framework for decomposing the unit sphere into a hierarchy of cells. Each cell is a quadrilateral bounded by four geodesics. The top level of the hierarchy is obtained by projecting the six faces of a cube onto the unit sphere, and lower levels are obtained by subdividing each cell into four children recursively.
Notice that the cell edges appear to be curved; this is because they are spherical geodesics, i.e., straight lines on the sphere (similar to the routes that airplanes fly).
Each cell in the hierarchy has a level, defined as the number of times the cell has been subdivided (starting with a face cell). Cells levels range from 0 to 30. The smallest cells at level 30 are called leaf cells; there are 6 * 430 of them in total, each about 1cm across on the Earth’s surface.
How did the current state of the Augmented Reality World of Niantic came to be?
The very first App that Niantic created was called "Field Trip", one of the very few aimed specificly at the Google Glass System.
Field Trip acts as a "virtual tour guide" - using the user's location in order to recommend nearby landmarks and various points of interest, providing information about them ranging from historical tidbits to restaurant reviews. Upon approaching such points of interest, in-app "cards" would pop up with information regarding the location. The application also allows its users to customize the app's features, whether it to adjust the frequency of notifications or to prefer certain types of locations.
During that phase, a basic database of "POI" from - as John Hanke himself explained in a CNN-Interview in 2013 - 130 different sources.
Once the database was sufficiently filled with POI, Niantic created a game called Ingress. Without going so much into detail about the gameplay, in the early stages of the game the players themselves could suggest new POI. Additionally, players could submit new Photos to already existing POI, ask for a changed name, description or even location of an already existing POI. Niantic themselves would then review those and then either reject the submission or add it to their database. When the number of Submissions reached a level that Niantic could no longer handle, they quietly ceased to review the submissions.
Later, around 2017 or 2018, Niantic redesigned that review-system and came up with reasonably-clearly defined rules for what a "good" (and therefore acceptable) POI is and what a "bad" (and therefore rejectable) POI is. Most of these rules are in the area of the players themselves, there are however also rules that Niantic themselves enforce.
According the these rules, a good POI is:
- A place with a cool story, a place in history of educational value
- Interesting Story behind the Location/Object
- Signboards with educational Information
- Historic Significance (apart from just being old)
- A cool piece of art or unique architecture
- Statues, paintings, mosaiks, light instalations, etc
- Venues that showcase fine art (e.g., performance art theaters and museums)
- Buildings designed by renowned architects/structures famous specifically for their architecture
- A hidden gem or hyper-local spot
- A popular local spot that you would take a friend visiting your community for the first time
- A popular spot where locals gather, but maybe be lesser-known outside of the community
- Tourist spots that showcase local flavor and culture and that make your city/neighborhood unique
- More off-the-beaten-path tourist attractions (i.e. if you weren’t a local, you wouldn’t necessarily know to go here)
- Adventurous tourist attractions - think lookout towers, observatories, signs or markers atop mountain peaks, etc.
- Public parks
- Public parks are great, high-quality places for POI: they are common all around the world and encourage players to walk, exercise and enjoy public spaes
- Public libraries
- A nod to education and discovery, cornerstones of Niantic and Ingress
- Includes little free libraries, provided they are not on private residential property; does not include mobile libraries
- Public places of worship
- A nod to the otherworldly, which is integral to the story of Ingress
- Transit stations
- A nod to the transportation industry, which also connects and unites people around the world
- Transportation hubs (like Grand Central Station); but not every single small transit stop (like a subway station or bus stop)
Low quality candidates or explicitly blacklisted Objects are:
- Candidates on the Ground of primary/secondary schools (K12-Schools)
- Candidates on Private, single-family residential property (including farms) - gated communities however are fine
- Candidates that obstruct the driveway of emergency services and may interfere with the operation of
- Fire stations
- Police Stations
- Military bases
- Industrial sites
- Power plants
- air traffic control towers
- Candidates that are not permanent, including seasonal displays that are only put up during certain times of the year
- Candidates that are natural features (Includes pictures of landscapes as well as submissions where the subject is a lake, river, stream, mountain, volcano, waterfall, etc.; photos that include man-made points of interest - plaques, signs, etc. - near natural features are acceptable)
- Candidates with pictures of people that can be recognized, pictures that are from a third party source (shows a watermark) or are low-quality (pitch-black, blurry, through dirty glass)
Rules that Niantic themselves enforce are centered around "POI"-density. Except for very old POI, new ones need to have a certain minimum distance and additionally, the number of POI that are allowed in a given S2-Cell is limited (only 1 POI per L19 S2 Cell, if my memory serves me correctly).
Niantic has dubbed this new Review-System "Operation Portal Recon" (aka OPR). It can be used by Ingress-Players of Level 12 that have successfully completed a test to check that they understand aforementioned rules.
In 2018/2019, Niantic has also moved the "Edit"-Submissions to OPR - these include changes of Name, Location and Description.
When Niantic released the Game Pokemon GO in 2016, there was an unbelievably huge increase in popularity. People started to take notice and the sheer mass of people that suddenly moved around following the directions of their smartphone started to annoy and offend a lot of people.
Especially Churches, Cemetaries and Historic sites connected to war-attrocities have asked Niantic to help - and Niantic responded by removing the corresponding POI.
This has also led to Raids in Gym's (a special type of POI in PoGO) to be shut down at night to ensure that players don't violate the peace of nearby residents.
In 2019, Niantic also allowed Pokemon-Players who had reached the maximum Level of 40 to submit new POI.
What's also interesting is that Pokemon GO has 2 different types of POI:
- Gyms - competitive aspects of the game, as they can be conquered for a faction (similar to Fortresses)
- Pokestops - regular sources of Items (similar to Inns)
Pokemon GO has more restrictive rules when it comes to POI - only 1 per Level 17 S2 Cell (where Ingress is at 1 per L19 S2 Cell). Gyms are determined by Level 14 Cells:
- 1 POI is always a Pokestop
- 2-5 POI means, that one of them is a gym
- 6-19 POI means that two of them are gyms
- 20-34 POI means that three of the are gyms
- 35-64 POI means that four of them are gyms
There are more rules to this but they might not be that interesting/important for WU.
Released in 2019, the game is the first of Niantic's games (so far) without PVP. It also has it's POI-Density rules closer to Ingress than Pokemon - meaning more POI than Pokemon but fewer than Ingress.
What's interesting and noteworthy however is that the type of Inn is determined by Level 15 Cells. That means that once new POI are added or once POI are removed, the given Inn-Type of a specific Cell might change.
- POI have come initially from Frieldtrip and then new ones were submitted by Ingress Players of Level 10+. Recently PokemonGO players (L40) were allowed to submit.
- POI Submissions have originally been reviewed by Niantic but are nowadays reviewed by Ingress-Players (L12+, restrictions apply).
- POI can be "reported" (submitted for deletion) & "edited" (location, name, description, photo) by Ingress Players of all levels. Reports are reviewed by Niantic, edits are - for the most part - reviewed by Ingress Players.
- The Type of a POI is determined by the density of POI in a given Level 15 S2 Cell
- There are very specific rules for what an appropriate POI is and what isn't.