When Pokémon Go first hit the app market in 2016, it was common to find people, young and relatively old alike, wandering around obscure locations and seemingly transfixed by their mobile device.
Two such individuals, Animation student Matt Brown and Zoology student Danielle Connor, were walking around Wimbledon Common on the lookout for Pokémon, but found that they were discovering more of the local wildlife than the much-loved digital creatures.
The idea for Pocket Pals then began to take shape. Matt and Dani envisaged an app that encouraged people to explore the environment and connect with nature, allowing players to track 3D animated animals and develop their knowledge about the animals' characteristics, habitats and conservation status.
Matt explained: "One afternoon, Dani called me to say we were heading up to London for a possible £20,000 grant, office space and business mentoring. The grant was from Geovation, funded by Ordnance survey, who help develop business ideas that use location data in their products and they saw potential in Pocket Pals.
"After pitching our idea in person, we later found out that we had been successful. Pocket Pals was awarded £10,000 with the potential of an additional £10,000 after our business model is assessed following 6 months on the programme."
One of the major strengths of Pocket Pals is that it successfully blends creativity with cutting-edge technology, which has enabled Matt to gather a team of gifted individuals from numerous subjects.
The students have come from courses such as computer science, animation and zoology, and they each bring a specific set of skills to the table. They are working closely with Geovation to develop the business model and how to monetise the app, whilst still remaining relevant to their target audience.
Matt reflected: "The Animation course really helped with preparing us for group work. So, when it came to gathering and managing a team, we already had some experience. Over the first few years on the course, each team member had started to specialise in different aspects of animation so it was great to learn from each other."
The team are aiming to release Pocket Pals this summer, on iOS and Android, and if it is a success they hope to take it internationally and establish a studio. The aim is that one day Pocket Pals can create animation projects for environmental and conservation organisations.