Lightship: Niantic empowers developers to start building the real-world metaverse

Niantic is opening its Lightship platform to allow developers to start building their visions for the real-world metaverse.

Metaverses have become an increasingly hot topic, especially since Facebook announced that it would change its company name to Meta to showcase its new approach.

As the creator of the world’s most popular augmented reality game, Pokemon Go, it’s no wonder Niantic also wants to play its part in bringing metaverses to life.

niantic metaverse

John Hanke, Founder and CEO of Niantic, said:

“From the early days of Niantic, our goal has been to create augmented reality experiences that millions of people around the world can enjoy and the platform that can power them.

Transforming humanity’s relationship with technology by merging the physical and virtual worlds will require the ideas and perspectives of as many people as possible.

That’s why we’re so excited to make the Lightship platform available to inspire AR developers, brands, creators, and fellow explorers to create inclusive, human-centric experiences that push the boundaries of what is possible in AR. “.

Included in the Lightship platform is ARDK, a cross-platform software development kit that brings together tools and technologies for three key AR features: real-time mapping, understanding, and sharing.

Real-time mapping

To improve real-time mapping, Niantic has leveraged its experience using smartphone camera sensors to further understand and launch “mesh” APIs.

The mesh APIs in ARDK allow developers to create real-time 3D mesh maps that understand topography and surfaces around the user. A mesh persists throughout the application session, expanding and improving as the user moves.

Occlusion APIs are also included that help to better simulate the real world by including the depth of real world objects. In an example provided, a user who kicks a virtual ball over a real world hedge will no longer see the ball but will still see the hedge.

Niantic promises that its depth technology automatically adapts to specific Android or iOS hardware, even if it has LiDAR sensors for greater precision.

Semantic segmentation

To improve understanding, the Semantic Segmentation APIs in ARDK use computer vision to identify elements of a real-world environment, such as the ground, sky, water, buildings, and more.

By understanding these elements, virtual objects can react differently within a real space. Niantic says it allows developers to focus on the experience they want to create while ARDK does the heavy lifting to understand the environment.

Multiplayer experiences

One of the key differences between metaverses and most existing AR worlds is the improved multiplayer mode, with the ultimate goal of having worlds alive and persistent.

While I can’t tell you that Niantic is providing that functionality (yet), I can report that ARDK’s multiplayer APIs will at least allow developers to create AR sessions with up to concurrent players. All virtual content, players and interactions are kept in sync in real time.

To keep the experience fast, Niantic says it is backed by a stack of P2P networks and a managed server. This means that developers do not need to write code to support multiplayer experiences.

ARDK also supports other multiplayer gaming features, including a player lobby system, synchronized clock, and persistent session storage.

Visual positioning system

Niantic has set out to build a 3D map of the world since the company’s inception and says it is one of the great challenges of augmented reality.

The company believes that such a 3D map is “key to bringing the real world to life with information and interactivity” and is taking the next step to provide one.

Niantic’s Visual Positioning System (VPS) allows people to place virtual objects in a specific location. These virtual geocaches persist to be discovered by other people using the same application.

Niantic claims to have mapped thousands of locations using live production code and plans to open VPS access to a select group of developers before a full launch in select cities next year.

Roadmap and Niantic Ventures

Niantic plans to release minor Lightship updates every six weeks and major updates every six months. Here is a sample of the current roadmap:

niantic roadmap lightship

A $ 20 million hedge fund, Niantic Ventures, has been established to invest in companies that are helping build the future of RA.

“The Lightship platform is accelerating TRIPP’s ability to deliver mindful multiplayer augmented reality experiences that transform the way you view the world around you. This exciting expansion of our product would not be possible without the Lightship platform, ”said Nanea Reeves, CEO and co-founder of TRIPP.

“We are honored to be a launch partner and to have the opportunity, with the support of Niantic, to continue to innovate in ways that encourage people to take care of their mental and emotional well-being.”

Developers can access many of the core APIs in Lightship ARDK, including semantic segmentation and meshing, for free. The multiplayer API is free for applications with less than 50,000 monthly active users, but a fee applies to applications with more than 50,000 monthly active users.

Digital Transformation

Are you looking to renew your digital transformation strategy? More information about the Digital Transformation Week taking place in Amsterdam from November 23-24, 2021, and discover the key strategies to make your digital efforts a success.

Tags: api, ardk, augmented reality, development, gaming, light ship, metaverse, multiplayer, niantic, niantic ventures, platform, vr

Leave a Comment