Tech companies left and right are revealing their metaverse plans and yesterday augmented reality (AR) company Niantic did just that. Famous for its Pokemon Go videogame Niantic announced the official launch of its Lightship platform, rolling out a software development kit (SDK) for creators as well as a new $20 million USD fund to help companies build AR experiences.
Unlike Meta (formerly Facebook) which is looking towards a virtual metaverse, Niantic is going down the path of a “real-world metaverse”, building AR content that supports features like multiplayer in real-world settings. To achieve this Lightship’s Augmented Reality Developer Kit (ARDK) tools are now available, the same ones used for Niantic’s other cross-platform projects across Android and iOS devices.
Niantic splits these tools into three categories – Real-Time Mapping, Understanding and Sharing. Real-Time Mapping and Understanding are all about using smartphone camera sensors to build knowledge of the world around you, scanning the environment to create 3D mesh maps of where objects are whilst utilising advanced occlusion API’s the digital and real worlds are seamless.
Just as critical is the inclusion of multiplayer. Metaverses are all about social connection rather than isolation with developers able to utilise the Lightship platform to build AR experiences that support up to five people concurrently. Creators will also find that ARDK: “provides some lightweight multiplayer gaming functions, including a player lobby system, a synchronized clock, and session-persistent storage.”
To encourage more companies and developers to utilise Lightship Niantic Ventures has set up a $20 million fund to: “invest in companies building applications that share our vision for the Real-World Metaverse,” Niantic notes. Partners already include Coachella, the PGA of America, Historic Royal Palaces, Science Museum Group and Shueisha, all of which will be releasing apps in 2022.
“Transforming humanity’s relationship with technology by merging the physical and virtual worlds will require the ideas and perspectives of as many people as possible,” said John Hanke, Founder and CEO of Niantic in a blog post. “That’s why we’re so excited to open the vault of technology that powers our own games, so developers, creators and brands globally can build inclusive experiences that push the boundaries of what’s possible in AR.”
As the Niantic Lightship platform continues to grow VRFocus will keep you updated.