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

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

Niantic, the company behind Pokémon GO, has announced the release of Lightship, an AR Developer Kit (ARDK) that will make creating augmented reality experiences more accessible. 

This open-source technology will aid Niantic in laying the groundwork for their concept of a “real-world metaverse.” Niantic CEO John Hanke mentioned his blog article in which he labeled the metaverse a “dystopian horror” during the program’s inaugural webcast. 

Even as Facebook changes its name to Meta and promotes a future dominated by VR headsets, Niantic is envisioning a metaverse that brings people together in real life rather than in a virtual environment.

The existing Niantic games place a strong emphasis on getting outside and meeting new people. Certain features of Pokémon GO, such as legendary raid fights, were only playable if enough players worked together at the same time before implementing pandemic-era improvements to play remotely. 

Local Discord groups sprang up in the aftermath of the debut of legendary raid fights in 2017, allowing players to organize real-world meet-ups in the hopes of catching a Lugia or an Articuno together.

“At Niantic, we think that the happiest folks are those whose virtual world leads them to a physical one,” Hanke explained. “Unlike a science fiction metaverse, a real-world metaverse will employ technology to enhance our understanding of the reality we’ve known for thousands of years.”

Developers may leverage the basis of games like Ingress, Pokémon GO, and Pikmin Bloom to create new projects by releasing the Lightship ARDK. Niantic is also launching a $20 million venture fund called Niantic Ventures, which will invest in firms that share Niantic’s mission. Coachella, Historic Royal Palaces, Universal Pictures, the PGA of America, and other businesses have already utilized Niantic’s ARDK since its inception. 

By integrating with Unity, a program used to create 3D, 2D, VR, and AR experiences, the software development kit will assist developers in creating experiences for iOS and Android. 

It includes Niantic’s top three AR capabilities, including real-time mapping, semantic segmentation, and multiplayer, making technologies that Niantic has been developing for years available to any emerging creative.

In a Q&A today, Amanda Whitt, a product manager at Niantic, said, “You just need a little bit of Unity knowledge, and it is actually easy to pick up.” The updated Lightship ARDK is now available for download from the Niantic Lightship website for any interested developers.