Tech

Niantic uncovers its vision for a ‘real-world metaverse,’ launches Lightship AR Developer Kit

AR technology organization Niantic, most popular for Pokémon GO, reported today that it will launch Lightship, an AR Developer Kit (ARDK) that will make building augmented reality experiences more accessible. This free, straightforwardly accessible technology will help Niantic foundation for its vision of the “real-world metaverse.”

Niantic is releasing a platform for building what it calls “real-world metaverse” applications. Called Lightship, the platform is “built around the parts necessary to stitch together the digital and the real world,” CEO John Hanke tells.

In the program’s launch live stream, Niantic CEO John Hanke referred to his blog post where he called the metaverse a “dystopian nightmare.” But even as Facebook changes its name to Meta and advertises a future dominated by VR headsets, Niantic is envisioning another option: a metaverse that unites individuals face to face, rather than in a virtual world.

Niantic is most popular for making one of the most successful mobile games ever, Pokémon Go. With Lightship, Hanke says the organization is “opening the vault of tech that we’ve been using to build our products” to help others build “planet-scale AR apps.”

Niantic’s current games stress outdoor action and meeting new individuals. Before making pandemic-era adjustments to play remotely, certain aspects of Pokémon GO —, for example, legendary raid battles — were just playable if enough players cooperated all the while.

Local Discord communities jumped up to around the release of legendary raid battles in 2017, assisting individuals with planning real-world meet-ups to attempt to get a Lugia or an Articuno together.

“At Niantic, we believe humans are the happiest when their virtual world leads them to a physical one,” Hanke said. “Unlike a sci-fi metaverse, a real-world metaverse will use technology to improve our experience of the world as we’ve known it for thousands of years.”

By releasing the Lightship ARDK, developers can use the foundation of games like Ingress, Pokémon GO, and Pikmin Bloom to make new projects. The organization is additionally opening a $20 million Niantic Ventures fund, which will invest in organizations that line up with Niantic’s vision. At launch, Niantic has as of now collaborated with brands like Coachella, Historic Royal Palaces, Universal Pictures, the PGA of America, and more, which have used its ARDK.

The software development kit will assist developers with building experiences for iOS and Android by integrating with Unity, a software that is used to make 3D, 2D, VR, and AR experiences. It offers Niantic’s top three AR features — real-time mapping, semantic segmentation, and multiplayer capability — making tools that Niantic has produced for years accessible to any growing inventive.

“You just need a little bit of Unity experience, and it is easy to pick up,” said Amanda Whitt, a product manager at Niantic, in a Q&A today.

The new Lightship ARDK is live today for any interested developers from the Niantic Lightship website.

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