Niantic Teases New AR Glasses
Niantic CEO John Hanke has teased AR glasses with Niantic branding. This is a first-party and head-mounted wearable, the latest sign of Niantic’s new aggressive push into augmented reality.
Exciting to see the progress we’re making to enable new kinds of devices that leverage our platform… pic.twitter.com/yYglk4q89G
— John Hanke (@johnhanke) March 29, 2021
The Pokémon GO developer shared a cryptic shot of the wearable accompanied with the words: “Exciting to see the progress we’re making to enable new kinds of devices that leverage our platform.” The image shows eyeglasses temples with the Niantic brand name in bright orange.
Niantic has actively invested in augmented reality hardware so it is also possible that the company went into a partnership with a startup building AR hardware for a project. However, the cryptic image shot shared by Niantic boss shows an AR device that has first-party branding. There is also the possibility that this device falls in the “smart glasses” category without a display but one that focuses on building audio or camera functionality into the smart glasses. Niantic has previously stated that it was working with Qualcomm to help in defining the reference design for the chipmaker’s XR hardware platform.
The Twitter teaser released last week came shortly after Niantic had put out a job advertisement for a Head of AR OS Engineering.
The job listing states that Niantic is “on an ambitious ambition to turn the world into an Augmented Reality canvas” where “games and other applications can paint on top of.” The listing further states that this “future is fully realized on AR Head-Mounted Displays (HMDs).” According to the job listing, Niantic was looking for an “inspirational leader to oversee the engineering direction to help build an AR operating system for HMDs” and to also enable its applications for millions of Niantic players.
This teaser is also coming at a time when there is a frenzy of activity at Niantic. The Pokémon GO developer announced an AR title last week that is based on Pikmin. Like its hugely successful Pokémon GO title, this is also a Nintendo collaboration. Early this month, Niantic also showcased a proof-of-concept Pokemon GO version that runs on Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.
The company has kept its Augmented Reality platform mostly under wraps as it waits for the right moment for an aggressive push. This will ultimately be shaped by the broader AR hardware ecosystem. With Facebook and Apple also competing to release their own devices, Niantic may be worried that such hardware devices will prioritize first-party software leaving little space for third-party players. These fears might inform its decision to make a hardware play in the AR space.