Everything you need to populate Niantic’s AR cloud with realistic multiplayer experiences

The news

Niantic has announced a few big changes to its AR cloud platform. First, a name change: Formerly known as the Niantic Real World Platform, it is now called Niantic Lightship.

That’s not the big news, though. Niantic is also offering a private developer’s beta for its Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit (ARDK). This kit is a collection of tools for building AR experiences with the same depth, physics, occlusions, and multiplayer functionality as Pokémon Go and Harry Potter Wizards Unite.

In other words, developers can use this kit to build apps that scan an environment and populate it with virtual content that behaves realistically.

From left to right: real-time meshing for object placement, segmentation for occlusion effects, and multiplayer functionality.

What tech is in the kit?

Niantic released the ARDK for private alpha testing in January, and have continuously updated it based on developer feedback. That means it includes “a host of advanced tools,” and more power in three areas that are crucially important for a more realistic AR experience.

  • Real-time mapping
    Niantic included the 3D meshing IP they acquired by purchasing 6D.ai last year. This tech enables the apps to map an environment in real-time with no more than a camera. That helps it to “read” that environment and apply “physics” to virtual objects.
  • Semantic segmentation
    Niantic says the kit includes powerful tools for recognizing and distinguishing the parts of a space, like the sky, a building, a car, and so on. This means it offers better occlusion.
  • Multiplayer functionality
    This gives developers access to tools for co-localizing multiple users, as well as networking and synchronizing them for better shared experiences.
  • 5G
    In an interview with Gamesbeat, Niantic’s VP of product management Kei Kawai explained that the kit also includes 5G tools. This will enable developers to transfer more data faster, and scale their AR experiences accordingly.

What isn’t in the kit?

Since AR technologies are still a work in progress, even at the highest levels, there is one notable omission from Niantic’s ARDK. The big one is support for persistent content, or virtual objects that are mapped to a specific real world place and “stay put” whether anyone is looking at them or not.

However, Niantic says it is still building out its Virtual Position System, which will allow developers to use geolocation tech and persistent content at a global scale.

To sign up for the beta, click through here.