Niantic Shows Off Improved, Open ‘Real World Platform’ for AR Games

Niantic Shows Off Improved, Open ‘Real World Platform’ for AR Games

Google spinoff Niantic had a massive hit on its hands when it launched Pokémon Go several years ago. The title made use of augmented reality (AR) technology to make it look like all your favorite pocket monsters were roaming around in the real world. However, the AR was rudimentary at best. Niantic has since acquired several smaller firms to beef up its AR tech, and now it’s preparing to roll out its enhanced “Real World Platform.” The company plans to make the Real World Platform available to third-party developers, too.

The Real World Platform powers Pokémon Go, but some impressive new capabilities are coming. If you’ve ever played Pokémon Go, you’ll know that Pokémon appear in specific locations in the world. However, they’re not aware of the environment. That Charmander simply floats around in a certain area, completely obscuring anything that might be in the way. It might look fine if you’re in an open space, but the virtual elements overlap things in a more complex setting.

Starting earlier this year, Niantic began acquiring companies that specialize in AR and machine learning. In February, Niantic gobbled up Escher Reality, and it recently acquired Matrix Mill. Niantic has offered a demo of what the Real World Platform will look like going forward thanks to these acquisitions.

In the video below, you can see the difference between the current AR platform and what Niantic plans to do. Pikachu first runs around the environment, overlapping all the people and objects. It doesn’t look great. Then, the new AR occlusion tech kicks in and suddenly Pikachu can run behind objects for a much more realistic look.

Niantic says this technology relies on neural networks, and it works in real time on your device. The Real World Platform can actually understand the world, even when objects and people move around. It also has a technique for multiple phones to communicate directly via cell tower transmission rather than going through a centralized server.

Importantly, these tools won’t just be limited to Niantic games. The company plans to give third-party developers access to the Real World Platform, making it like Amazon AWS for augmented reality products. Niantic has not talked about the business model for such a service, though. There will be more details on that front in the coming months. For now, developers who are interested in using the Real World Platform can sign up for more information on Niantic’s new dev page.