Niantic releases Lightship AR developer kit
Niantic, the AR technology company best known for Pokemon GO, today announced Lightship, an AR development kit (ARDK) that will make it easier to build augmented reality experiences. The free, publicly available technology will help Niantic lay the foundation for its vision of a "real-world meta-universe."
In a live stream announcing the plan, Niantic CEO John Hanke cited his blog post in which he called the meta semes a "dystopian nightmare." But even as Facebook changes its name to Meta and promotes a future dominated by VR headsets, Niantic is imagining an alternative: a Metaverse that brings people together, not in a virtual world.
Niantic's existing games emphasize outdoor activities and meeting new people. Prior to the remote gaming tweaks of the pandemic era, certain aspects of Pokemon GO (such as legendary raid battles) could only be played if enough players cooperated at the same time. After legendary Raid Battle was released in 2017, local Discord communities sprang up to help people coordinate real-world gatherings and try to catch Lugia or Articuno together. "At Niantic, we believe that humans are happiest when the virtual world brings them into the physical world," Hanke said. "Unlike sci-fi virtual worlds, virtual worlds in the real world will use technology to improve our experience of the world as we have known it for thousands of years." By releasing Lightship ARDK, developers can build new projects using the foundations of games like Ingress, Pokemon GO, and Pikmin Bloom. The company has also opened a $20 million Niantic Ventures fund, which will invest in companies that align with Niantic's vision. At launch, Niantic has worked with brands such as Coachella, Historic Royal Palaces, Universal Pictures, and PGA of America, which use its ARDK.
The software development suite will help developers build experiences for iOS and Android by integrating with Unity, the software for creating 3D, 2D, VR, and AR experiences. It offers Three of Niantic's AR features -- real-time mapping, semantic segmentation, and multiplayer capabilities -- making the tools Niantic has been developing for years available to any up-and-coming creatives. "All you need is a little Unity experience, and it's actually pretty easy to get started," Amanda Whitt, Product manager for Niantic, said in today's Q&A.
The new Lightship ARDK is now available to any interested developer on the Niantic Lightship website.