PKPKT (pronounced "pickpocket") is a new iPhone game that uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to simulate digital pickpocketing. Each player starts with $1,000 dollars in fake money, and can make more money by stealing from nearby PKPT users even if the app isn't open, thanks to the technical wizardry of BLE and iOS 7. Once you've stolen from someone, you can boast about it by messaging them, which also works over Bluetooth — a refreshingly local twist on the cloud-based messaging apps we use today.
PKPKT works by constantly scanning for other players nearby, and then sending a notification to both players. By tapping three times on the top of your iPhone, you can attempt a steal. Whoever's fastest takes home the 10 digital dollars. "[BLE] was the first technology in a while that really piqued my interest," says PKPT developer Jeremy Schoenherr, and he's not alone. The game is one of several new ways that BLE is getting utilized on the iPhone. Apple itself is using it in its stores with iBeacon, and there's an app called Knock that lets you unlock your Mac by knocking on your phone, and it works even if the app itself isn't open.
But PKPKT is one of the first games to really take advantage of the technology in a natural way. "The first idea I had was going to be a rumors app, where you could just pass secrets anonymously to anyone you walked past," says Schoenherr. "It kinda freaked me out, though, and I just envisioned bullies making life hell for people." Soon after he thought up PKPKT, which employs similar dynamics, but to a different end. "I really love games like Assassins," Schoenherr says, "and this seemed to be in the same vein." The app's BLE range is about 100 feet, Schoenherr says.
Playing PKPKT in its current state feels a lot like playing a round of futuristic tag. The goal of the game is to simply collect the most money and if you're really dedicated, you can buy "head starts" inside the app to give you an edge on competitors. However, once you've played around with it a few times, there's not much incentive to keep playing. The current version of the app is admittedly pretty barebones, a proof-of-concept that shows what can be done with BLE. The next release of PKPKT, Schoenherr says, will include new weapons and achievements.