Pokémon GO is getting Americans up and going, and, for the first time, researchers have numbers to back up that assertion.
Based on their study, published in the December issue of the Journal of Medical Internet Research, scientists estimate that the game added a total of 144 billion steps to Americans' physical activity during the first 30 days after they started playing it this past summer. The researchers figure that's equal to about 2,724 trips around the Earth's circumference or, if you prefer, 143 trips to the moon and back.
The way they arrived at their findings is almost as mind-boggling as the numbers themselves.
They started with a group of 32,000 people who had agreed to allow Microsoft access to two types of information: their searches on Bing, the company's search engine, and data about how many steps they took each day, as measured by their Microsoft Band, an exercise tracker worn on the wrist.
Bing searches between July 6, when Niantic introduced Pokémon GO in the United States, and Aug. 13 helped clue the scientists in to who was playing the augmented reality game.
"We actually looked at 600 or so different types of queries that mentioned Pokémon," coauthor Tim Althoff, a computer science PhD candidate at Stanford University, told me. Althoff, who conducted the study while a summer research intern at Microsoft, was presenting his findings in Europe when I caught up with him by phone Tuesday.