Niantic Unveils a Platform for ‘Real-World Metaverse’ Apps
Niantic has launched a platform aimed at building what it refers to as “real-world metaverse” apps. The platform is referred to as Lightship and according to Niantic CEO John Hanke, has been built around the parts that are required “to stitch together the digital and the real world.”
Lightship will make it possible for mobile apps to determine whether a user’s camera is pointed towards the sky or water. It will also be able to map surfaces as well as the depth of environments in real-time or to place a virtual object behind a real object.
The studio is better known for its Pokémon Go hit. Through its Lightship platform, Niantic wants to make accessible the tech that it has been using to build its products for the development of “planet-scale AR apps.”
The Lightship platform has been under development for some time. Now the platform is set to be accessible to any developer. Most of the Lightship’s software kit is free but the feature that allows for multiple devices to access shared Augmented Reality experiences will be available for a fee. Niantic has also committed $20 million to be channeled to companies that are developing augmented reality apps.
Niantic also plans a major update for its Lightship platform in 2022 and will build a “visual positioning system” for AR glasses.
The new system will enable glasses that have displays in them to understand their exact position in the real world. It will also enable virtual objects like Pikachu to be persistently anchored to real-world locations. This is an important component that is required for AR glasses to be useful.
Before he founded Niantic, Hanke was previously in charge of Google Maps. He wants his Lightship platform to “set the pattern for what AR can be.” Similar software tools are being developed by tech giants like Apple and Meta but Hanke believes that Lightship’s iOS and Android support will make the platform an attractive position for developers.
The world of mobile is split 50-50 between iOS and Android and Niantic’s Lightship provides a more diversified offering for AR glasses. Developers working on the platform will be able to develop solutions that can work across multiple platforms.
Hanke has in the past referred to the metaverse as a “dystopian nightmare” as it is something that pulls users from the real world. As opposed to Zuckerberg’s enthusiastic embrace of the metaverse, Hanke wants Niantic and Lightship developers to build augmented reality apps that will keep people engaged with the real physical world.
He says Niantic wants to build Lightship apps that will encourage people to do things together with other “alive” folks.