IT IS a game which has taken the world by storm in a less than week. Now experts have predicted that Pokémon Go - which has given millions their first taste of blending the real and virtual world - could soon lead to Star Wars-like hologram communications and school lessons where pupils can “travel” back in time to see history come to life.

Unlike the traditional notion of sitting in a darkened room playing on a games console, Pokémon Go encourages players to explore the real world and “catch” virtual Pokémon characters such as Pidgey and Pikachu using their mobile phones. It was downloaded more than 15 million times in the UK in the 48 hours following its official launch last Thursday; worldwide, it has already overtaken social media sites such as Twitter and Tinder in terms of user numbers.

While the game itself may prove to be no more than a passing fad, experts say it is significant as the first “mainstream” use of augmented reality, where animation and sound are digitally layered into the real world.

Mark Evans, CEO of experiential marketing group Kommando, which is based in Glasgow, said: “Pokémon has been a game-changer, it has helped make augmented reality relevant to someone’s lifestyle.

“It is now not just a technology that people blog about or is talked about in a tech magazine for industry or business to use - it is being used in a way which is meaningful to people.”

Evans said he envisaged the use of augmented reality would develop from using mobile phone or tablet screens to having special lenses for viewing and even contact lenses.

He pointed to predictions which suggested by 2025, the virtual reality and augmented reality industry could be worth as much as $180 billion (around £136 billion).

Augmented reality, which can be shared with people in real time and takes account of the surrounding world, is expected to be more successful than virtual reality, which is an experience of personal immersion in a digitally created world.

Evans said his company had used augmented reality in an advert for the Scottish Government to show the dangers of second-hand smoke, where parents could see their children standing in a room as it “filled” with invisible toxins and their lungs “blackening”.

He said: “This was not the finger wagging of public service, it was an engaging way to invite mums and dads and children into a space they could relate to.

“People tell stories with pictures – the younger generations coming through are hard-wired to understand emoticons, pictures, Instagram, Facebook and video.

“Augmented reality uses the technology of mobile and tablet to capture stories and tell a story using real world - that is the exciting thing for the likes of education, you can really build something for kids of the future where augmented reality brings the education story to life.

“For example, you could take kids into the ancient Pyramids and walk them through. They could walk around certain areas of buildings where it activates and tells them the history.

“You may look and all you will see is a building or a monument - but if you put your mobile over that and it brings it to life and tells a story, then that is a more educational way of tapping into people’s imagination.”

Digital transformation expert Dr Hannah Rudman, director of Edinburgh-based Rudman Consulting, said there had been growth in the development of augmented reality apps in recent years.

Examples include apps that help online shoppers to “try on” expensive jewellery before they buy it – such as overlaying an image of an expensive Rolex on their arm – and educational apps that show anatomy students 3D models of parts of the body.

Rudman said: “I definitely think we will see more and more augmented reality apps come about, and part of the reason for that is we have better smartphones now.

“There will be more silly applications like Pokémon Go, more serious ones and I suspect we will begin to see communication applications as well.

“Is this suddenly how we get our Princess Leia holograph moment from Star Wars – does Skype suddenly become 3D? I suspect we will probably see a few attempts at that in the next couple of years as well.”

Katja Bego, a data scientist in the technology futures team at UK innovation charity Nesta, said Pokémon Go was a relatively simple application of augmented reality.

“More consumer facing, online shopping is an area that has a lot of potential,” she said. “If you see someone walking in the streets with a pair of shoes you really like - what if you could scan the shoes with your phone and buy them directly?

“Or what about touring a house you might want to buy without actually ever having to enter it - just scan it with your phone to ‘remove the wall’.

“I expect there to be quite a surge in investment in these other areas of augmented reality as well.”

However, the explosion in the use of Pokémon Go – which was only launched in Australia and the US 10 days ago, and the UK last week - has also brought with it many concerns over its use.

The game features the ability to plant “lures” to draw Pokémon characters into a location, while Pokémon “gyms” – where players battle to win control – are often in local sites of interest.

The Auschwitz museum in Poland and Arlington National Cemetery in the US are among the places of sensitive historical significance which urged players to stay away out of respect.

There have been reports of robbers using the game to lure victims to locations, signs in the US warning drivers “Don’t Pokémon and drive”, two gamers in the US plunging off a cliff while trying to “catch” Pokémon and players getting lost in caves in Wiltshire.

The NSPCC also raised concerns about child safety, warning offenders could use the game to find children.

Bego said the concerns around sharing location were a wider issue with any app that uses GPS technology, rather than being unique to augmented reality.

But she added: “There are however some new issues that will emerge as augmented reality grows more popular, particularly around the way it draws the physical world into the virtual world.

“Some people have seen their own house unwittingly marked as a Pokémon gym, resulting in trespassing Pokémon hunters; and then there were those that tried searching for Pokémon at the US Holocaust Museum, Ground Zero and Auschwitz.”

She added: “Something that hasn't happened yet but seems quite inevitable is the use of augmented reality advertising. What if Starbucks could pay to have all its branches turned into exclusive Pokémon gyms?

“We will need to start thinking about the effects this whole new layer of advertising might have on the real world, and think about regulation accordingly.”

Darshana Jayemanne, lecturer in art, media and games at Abertay University in Dundee, said the success of Pokémon Go was due to the popularity of the characters and the growth in smartphone use meaning “everyone now has a computer in their pocket”.

He said government bodies such as public health organisations could also use augmented reality apps, for example, to encourage people to become more active.

“When there is no need to force people to get out and participate in this, when they are just doing it by themselves, then harnessing it to some other goal like health would be an area of interest,” he said.

“But there are also questions about once you start collecting metrics on people’s activities - who is going to be responsible for that information and how it is going to be used becomes really important.”

Jayemanne added the use of augmented reality was going to expand “whether we like it or not”.

He said: “It is less about thinking whether or not it is going to happen, than thinking about what it means that it is going to happen.”