Niantic made a reputation for itself within the cellular gaming business by means of the enduring success of Pokémon Go. Now the corporate is hoping to change into 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 a minimum of 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 may be grounded to a bodily location, just like the entrance of a constructing or a park monument, moderately than simply floating aimlessly by means of a cellphone’s digicam view.
Builders can now use VPS because the tentpole characteristic of Niantic’s broader Lightship SDK, which additionally lets a number of gadgets entry a shared AR expertise — like a 3D multiplayer recreation — on the identical time. VPS can be free throughout an preliminary public beta interval after which change later this yr to a drained billing system that’s primarily based on an app’s variety of month-to-month customers, based on 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 listing of pals to point out their places on a map in the event that they decide in, together with close by in-game experiences. You may manage and RSVP to real-life meetups for these experiences, comparable to a Pokémon raid, and chat with different gamers in a gaggle. The purpose is for Campfire to not solely make Niantic’s video games extra social however present a manner for different builders to have their Lightship-powered apps be found by the corporate’s thousands and thousands of customers.
To energy VPS, Niantic has crowdsourced thousands and thousands of cellphone digicam scans of real-world places by each Ingress and Pokémon Go gamers. It claims to have 20,000 VPS-activated places 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, finally, good glasses. The corporate fees builders with giant person bases to entry the server-side features of Lightship, together with VPS and multiplayer performance. That provides Niantic a possible income stream past the numerous amount of cash 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 purchased eighth Wall, a startup that sells AR improvement instruments for the online moderately 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 larger firms like Meta and Snap prioritize AR developer instruments for their very own platforms, Hanke sees a chance to supply a toolkit that works anyplace by means of an internet browser.
“Our purpose is to create instruments for those who wish to construct apps they’ll run cross-platform and that they personal and management,” he tells The Verge. “They usually’re not simply options on any person else’s service, however they’re really purposes that may exist on their very own and that complete firms may be constructed round.”