Niantic moves beyond games with Lightship AR platform and a social network

Niantic made a reputation for itself within the cell gaming trade by means of the enduring success of Pokémon Go. Now the corporate is hoping to grow to be one thing else: a platform for different builders to construct location-aware AR apps on prime of.

This plan has been within the works since at least 2018, however it’s taking an enormous leap ahead this week with the long-awaited launch of Niantic’s location mapping software program for AR, which it calls the Visible Positioning System, or VPS in a nod to GPS. The know-how makes it in order that AR experiences could be grounded to a bodily location, just like the entrance of a constructing or a park monument, relatively than simply floating aimlessly by means of a cellphone’s digicam view.

Builders can now use VPS because the tentpole function of Niantic’s broader Lightship SDK, which additionally lets a number of units entry a shared AR expertise — like a 3D multiplayer sport — on the similar time. VPS will likely be free throughout an preliminary public beta interval after which change later this yr to a tiered billing system that’s primarily based on an app’s variety of month-to-month customers, in line with Niantic spokesman Jonny Thaw.

Along with VPS, Niantic is that this week additionally releasing Campfire, a location-based social community that integrates with its video games and future apps that use Lightship. Campfire faucets your Niantic account’s checklist of buddies to point out their areas on a map in the event that they choose in, together with close by in-game experiences. You may arrange and RSVP to real-life meetups for these experiences, corresponding to a Pokémon raid, and chat with different gamers in a bunch. The purpose is for Campfire to not solely make Niantic’s video games extra social however present a means for different builders to have their Lightship-powered apps be found by the corporate’s tens of millions of customers.

To energy VPS, Niantic has crowdsourced tens of millions of cellphone digicam scans of real-world areas by each Ingress and Pokémon Go gamers. It claims to have greater than 20,000 VPS-activated areas world wide, together with centimeter-level exact maps for giant elements of San Francisco, London, Tokyo, Los Angeles, New York Metropolis, and Seattle.

With this location layer, Niantic hopes to supply a vital piece of infrastructure for AR apps, whether or not they’re on telephones or, ultimately, sensible glasses. The corporate prices builders with giant consumer bases to entry the server-side elements of Lightship, together with VPS and multiplayer performance. That offers Niantic a possible income stream past the numerous sum of money it already makes from Pokémon Go, although CEO John Hanke doesn’t count on Lightship to be a significant income driver within the close to time period.

A few months in the past, Niantic bought 8th Wall, a startup that sells AR improvement instruments for the net relatively than for native apps on iOS or Android. Niantic plans to maintain eighth Wall operating and combine Lightship, letting browser-based AR experiences entry its mapping tech. Whereas greater firms like Meta and Snap prioritize AR developer instruments for their very own platforms, Hanke sees a chance to supply a toolkit that works wherever by means of an online browser.

“Our purpose is to create instruments for those that need to construct apps they will run cross-platform and that they personal and management,” he tells The Verge. “They usually’re not simply options on any individual else’s service, however they’re really functions that may exist on their very own and that complete firms could be constructed round.”

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