Pokémon GO Creator Launches Platform To Build ‘Real-World Metaverse' Apps


Niantic, the company which created apps like Pokémon GO and some others, is no stranger to Augmented Reality (AR).

This time, the company announced that it is offering up access to its 'Lightship' Augmented Reality technology, in order to help developers create AR-oriented apps.

According to founder and CEO of Niantic, John Hanke, the platform is "built around the parts necessary to stitch together the digital and the real world."

Lightship allows mobile apps to identify whether a user’s camera is pointed at the sky or water, map the surfaces and depth of an environment in real time, or place a virtual object behind a physical one.

By using the system, AR glasses can also understand exactly where they are in the real world, which in turn allow them to project virtual objects, and make those objects anchored persistently to real-world locations.

This is extremely critical in AR-made environments.

The tool is meant to allow developers create their own "real-world metaverse" apps using a real-time 3D mesh map to read the surfaces and topography of the world surrounding the user.

The tool also include APIs that can help apps understand elements of an environment, while up to five players can be synchronized as part of the same AR multiplayer session.

Another way of saying this, Niantic Labs is offering everyone the chance to get their hands on the tech behind its products, so they can create their own apps.

With Lightship, Hanke said that his company is “opening the vault of tech that we’ve been using to build our products” to help others build “planet-scale AR apps.”

Niantic is offering this tech for free for developers who wish to create AR apps. But at this time, the multiplayer APIs are only free for the first six months, irrespective of how many users an app has.

After six months, a fee will be payable, but only if the APIs are used in apps with more than 50,000 monthly active users.

Several notable brands have taken part in a private beta of the development kit, including Universal Pictures, PGA of America and Warner Music Group.

Hanke, who previously ran Google Maps before starting Niantic, said that the goal of Lightship is to "basically set a pattern for what AR can be."

This makes Niantic's vision of the metaverse to be different from the virtual reality-centered future Facebook's parent company Meta has in mind.

In a blog post in August, Hanke said that the "real-world metaverse" is about connecting the physical and digital worlds, rather than existing purely as a virtual experience.

He called the idea of the metaverse a “dystopian nightmare” because he is against the idea of technology pulling people out of the real world.

Instead of having the metaverse vision championed by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Hanke wants Niantic and Lightship developers to build AR apps that keep people engaged with the physical, by "encouraging people to do things together with other folks who are alive."
"There’s a fork in the road," he said. "One path goes in this direction of apps that are not connected to the world around us and not helping us connect with the people who we are around."

For this reason, Hanke thinks that Lightship’s support for iOS and Android will make it an attractive offering to developers.

“The state of the world today is sort of 50/50 between Android and iOS,” he said. “And I think it’s going to be much more diversified in the world of AR glasses. So a solution that actually solves the developer problem of being able to write something and create something that’s going to work across multiple platforms is really important.”

With that in mind, Niantic has been in partnership with Qualcomm to develop their own AR glasses.

In related news, Niantic has also announced a $20 million investment fund to support developers who "share our vision for the real-world metaverse and contribute to the global ecosystem we are building."