Bo Boghosian, Niantic

The Society for News Design is excited to announce that Bo Boghosian is joining our lineup of speakers for the SND Charlotte workshop on April 19-21 in Charlotte, N.C.

Bo is a software engineer at Niantic, which is based in San Francisco. If you’ve not heard of the company, you probably have heard of its marquee product — Pokemon Go. Bo was one of the lead engineers on the most downloaded app of 2016, and jokes that it’s his job to place Pokemon throughout the world for people to find, amongst numerous other back-end dev duties.

SND.org’s Greicy Mella chatted with Boghosian about augmented reality, the future of news and why he enjoys reading a print newspaper every morning.

TELL US A BIT ABOUT YOURSELF. I’m probably classified as a techie because I’m a software engineer at Niantic, and I wear T-shirts to work, and I hope that’s where the similarities end. I play hockey, guitar, piano, and spend weekends either baking sourdough bread or skiing. My preferred form of social media is e-mail. You might call me a luddite and not be too far from the truth.

HOW MIGHT AUGMENTED REALITY (AR) BE UTILIZED BY NEWS SITES? Niantic has a neat mobile app called Field Trip that does something similar [to Pokemon Go]. When you walk around town you’ll get notifications about new restaurants, historical buildings, and such. My favorite feed is from Curbed because it shows geo-located articles about architecture and real estate. That is a perfect use of augmented reality, because you’re physically there and the news article is there with you. 

DO YOU THINK THERE’S ANY WAY TO “GAMIFY” NEWS? I sure hope not. Actually, I hope we don’t have to. News is too important to be gamified. When you gamify the news, the game becomes the goal and the news becomes a side effect.

The urge to gamify the news is understandable given the sheer amount of information that competes for people’s attention. Much of that information is worthless, but it’s compelling and even addicting.

Ultimately, I believe people need to want the news. But how do you tell society to stop scrolling through Facebook and Instagram, watching increasingly obnoxious cable news shows, and start reading real news? I don’t know.

WHAT’S THE FIRST SITE OR APP YOU GO TO WHEN YOU WAKE UP EVERY DAY (BESIDES POKEMON GO)? I have a paper subscription to The Wall Street Journal which I read in the morning with my fiance and a cup of coffee. It’s the best part of my day. People think it’s odd for me to get a physical newspaper.

The Journal switched its weekday edition from four sections to two slightly larger sections recently, but I don’t have a problem with that. I’ll only be sad when they stop delivering paper versions to my doorstep.

WHAT’S YOUR CURRENT POKEMON LEVEL? I’m level 24, and I’ve caught 125 different Kanto Pokemon. My prized possession is a Mr. Mime that I caught in Athens. Mr. Mime is only found in Europe so I couldn’t relax on that vacation until I had caught one.

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About SND Charlotte

• Don’t miss your chance to UNITE & REBEL, register today: Register
• Book your hotel room (before they run out!): Use the SND discount link
• Check out the lineup of speakers we’ve announced for the workshop. What a team!
• Don’t miss the Think Before You Make pre-conference day at the U.S. National Whitewater Center