Niantic Launches Lightship Platform To Build Real-World Metaverse Apps

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Niantic is launching a platform to build what it calls “real-world metaverse” apps. Called Lightship, the platform is “built around the things needed to bring the digital world and the real world together,” CEO John Hanke tells me.

According to Hanke, Lightship will allow mobile apps to identify whether a user’s camera is pointed at the sky or water, map surfaces and depth of an environment in real time, or place a virtual object behind. a physical object.

Niantic is best known for creating one of the most successful mobile games of all time, Pokémon Go. With Lightship, Hanke says the company “opens up the vault of technology that we used to create our products” to help others build “planet-wide AR applications.”

Lightship has been in development for some time. But from Monday, it is open to any developer. Most software tools are free, although Niantic charges for a feature that allows multiple devices to access shared AR experiences simultaneously. The company is also pledging $ 20 million to fund new companies building AR applications.

Niantic is already planning a major Lightship update for next year, building what Hanke calls a “virtual positioning system” for the AR glasses.

Using the new system, the glasses with screens will be able to understand exactly where they are in the real world, which will allow virtual objects (like a Pikachu) to stay persistently anchored in real world locations. It’s an essential component needed to make AR glasses, such as the ones Niantic build with Qualcomm, useful.

Hanke, who previously ran Google Maps before launching Niantic, explains that Lightship’s goal is to “fundamentally set a blueprint for what AR can be.” As tech giants like Meta and Apple create similar software tools, he believes Lightship’s support for iOS and Android will make it an attractive offering for developers.

“The state of the world today is sort of 50/50 between Android and iOS,” he says. “And I think it’s going to be a lot more diverse in the AR glasses world. So a solution that actually solves the developer’s problem of being able to write something and create something that will work on multiple platforms is really important.

In August, Hanke wrote a blog post calling the idea of ​​the Metaverse a “dystopian nightmare.” He is against the idea that technology is removing people from the real world. Unlike the VR metaverse championed by Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg, he wants the developers at Niantic and Lightship to create AR apps that keep people engaged in the physical.

“There is a fork in the road,” he said. “There is a path in this direction of applications that are not connected to the world around us and do not help us connect with the people around us.” The other path that Niantic is taking with Lightship, according to Hanke, is “to encourage people to do things with other people who are alive.”


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