Just In: Niantic launches platform to build ‘real-world metaverse’ apps

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Niantic is offering a framework for creating “real-world metaverse” applications. The platform, dubbed Lightship, is “built around the elements essential to weave together the digital and real worlds,” according to CEO John Hanke.

Lightship, according to Hanke, will allow smartphone apps to determine whether a user’s camera is directed towards the sky or water, map the surfaces and depth of a scene in real-time, and position a virtual object behind an actual one.

Niantic is best recognized for inventing Pokémon Go, one of the most popular smartphone games of all time. Lightship is “opening the vault of tech that we’ve been utilizing to build our products” to allow others to build “planet-scale AR apps,” according to Hanke.

Lightship has been in the works for a long time. However, from Monday, any developer will be able to use it. The majority of the software toolbox is free, but Niantic will charge for a feature that allows several devices to simultaneously access shared AR experiences. In addition, the corporation will invest $20 million in new companies that are developing augmented reality apps.

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Niantic is already working on a major update for Lightship for next year, which will include a “visual positioning system” for AR glasses, according to Hanke.

Glasses with displays will be able to understand exactly where they are in the actual world utilizing the new approach, allowing virtual items (such as Pikachu) to remain anchored to real-world locations indefinitely. It’s a necessary component for AR glasses like the ones Niantic is developing with Qualcomm to be useful.


The idea with Lightship, according to Hanke, who formerly headed Google Maps before joining Niantic, is to “essentially define a blueprint for what AR can be.” Despite the fact that major giants such as Meta and Apple are developing similar software solutions, he believes Lightship’s support for iOS and Android will make it an appealing proposition for developers.

“It’s around a 50/50 split between Android and iOS right now,” he explains. “And I believe the world of AR glasses will become much more diverse.” As a result, a solution that genuinely solves the developer challenge of being able to write and construct something that will operate across different platforms is critical.”

Hanke described the metaverse as a “dystopian nightmare” in a blog post published in August. He opposes the idea of technology luring people away from reality. Unlike Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s VR metaverse, he wants Niantic and Lightship developers to create AR apps that keep users engaged with the real world.

He says, “There’s a fork in the road.” “One road leads to apps that are disconnected from the world around us and do not assist us in connecting with the people we encounter.” According to Hanke, the other option Niantic is exploring with Lightship is “encouraging individuals to accomplish things along with other people who are alive.”

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