Niantic’s browser AR software turns the world into an AR game
Image: 8th wall
Niantic’s “Visual Positioning System” brings AR users into the same digital space. The software now runs directly in the browser.
AR games like the hit Pokémon Go initially relied mostly on inaccurate GPS data and not accurately locating players on the virtual map. Niantic’s “Visual Positioning System” (VPS) is supposed to remedy this: The system, which was rolled out to AR studios in late May, places players precisely and permanently on a shared 3D map.
Thanks to this so-called AR cloud, players can see the same digital objects in the same place with centimeter precision, according to Niantic. In the monster hunting example, several people could gather around a digital creature in the park to observe it from all sides at once. Retailers could attract customers to stores where they can go in search of precisely placed AR installations or puzzles.
Niantics Lightship VPS for Mobile Browsers
VPS for Niantic’s own Lightship AR SDK is available for dedicated applications. Now the company is also announcing “Lightship VPS for Web”, which renders content associated with actual locations available in mobile browser.
Interested developers can thus create unlimited experiences in many places and landmarks, for example, related treasure hunts.
Fittingly, Niantic has already dubbed the concept a “Worldscale” solution that syncs many AR-enabled systems across iOS and Android. Smartphones with built-in LiDAR depth sensors are supported, as are camera-only smartphones.
The world (AR) comes to life
A trailer shows the navigation software in action: the Luxor obelisk in Paris becomes a strange luminous monolith with floating rings for all participants, which could be used to create a puzzle in the style of the adventure game Myst .
In Sydney, a statue transforms into a spooky Ghostbusters-style creature, complete with crows fluttering menacingly. In an LA garden, visitors throw coconuts at identical digital targets.
To make all of this possible, Niantic is pairing its VPS with a solution from development studio 8th Wall, which it acquired in March. It has already made it easy to create and publish professional, platform-independent AR content in 2019.
Many mainstream augmented reality experiences from major brands were already using 8th Wall’s platform, including Pepsi, Microsoft, Netflix, or Universal Pictures.
A strength of Niantic’s real-world VPS mapping is that a large community of developers, gamers, and mappers independently collaborate to create VPS-supported locations.
In addition to spatial scans, photographs can also be used for 3D capture. The project started in 2020 with the ability to scan the environment in Pokémon GO.
Over 100,000 active VPS sites
More than 100,000 VPS locations are already available to live or create collaborative WebAR experiences, according to Niantic. A 3D grid makes it possible to take account of superimpositions and create more interactivity.
If the authors cannot be on site, they can edit their creations in the geobrowser of the 8th-Wall platform. For more examples and information, visit the 8th-Wall website.
The VPS system could one day become the basis for AR headsets, as it collaboratively, accurately and persistently mixes digital content with real-world locations. Metas Quest Pro will be unveiled in October and will feature an AR video mode. Apple and Google with Iris are also reportedly working on VR headsets with additional video AR functionality. Slim AR glasses with functions similar to AR video headsets, on the other hand, are still years away from the market.