As the Niantic Lightship platform launches globally, Niantic takes their next big step toward augmented reality and real-world metaverse dominance. They’re releasing a set of Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit tools for creators, and announcing Niantic Ventures will invest $20 million USD in “companies building the future of AR.” This platform releases to developers “the vault of technology that powers Pokemon GO.”
Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit (ARDK) can be accessed at Lightship.dev. This development kit is part of a long term vision Niantic has to “build a 3D map of the world.” They’re aiming to scan in and map the entire world, piece by piece, in order to create the biggest game board in the history of humanity. They’ll do this using their Visual Positioning System (VPS) along with other “advanced tools” available in the Lightship ARDK.
We’ve had chats about the future of Niantic in the metaverse before. They have massive potential in this realm, especially when it comes to the most successful mobile game of all time, Pokemon GO. Using Pokemon GO as an example, we’ve explored how Niantic will be a big player in the near-future of the virtual, augmented, and mixed-reality future.
Incorporating other brands from around the world in a shared augmented reality that’s mapped the entire planet should put Niantic in a key position for future metaverse power.
Niantic has created a system with three key areas of AR focus: Real-Time Mapping, Understanding, and Sharing. They’ve included Meshing APIs to build depth maps of any environment with most modern smartphone camera arrays. They have Occlusion APIs to allow real-world objects interact with augmented reality objects.
They’ve included Semantic Segmentation APIs to help smartphones users understand and identify elements in the real world and “inform the way virtual content will react within a real space.”
Sharing with this platform is about more than just posting pictures to social networks. Sharing means allowing multiple users to interact with the same AR elements all at once. Multiplayer experiences will work with session-persistent storage to make the metaverse become nearly as “real” as our physical realm.
But make no mistake, Niantic will not be giving this set of tools away for free. At the start, all the way from now until May 1, 2022, a set of “free” terms apply to developers who sign up for the Lightship ARDK. If you sign up after May 1, 2022, you’ll see a different set of terms.
The terms before May 1, 2022 include the core APIs of the Lightship ARDK for free for developers “no matter how many people use their apps.” The part that might start to cost money is the Multiplayer API. The Multiplayer API is “free for apps with fewer than 50,000 monthly active users.” After that, a fee applies for using the Multiplayer API – and this is just so long as you’ve signed up before May 1, 2022.
UPDATE: Niantic also suggests that Multiplayer APIs are free “for the first six months of use, regardless of app size.” So fees may change, but Niantic is making a big effort here to get developers hooked on the platform as effectively as possible. This launch took place on November 8, 2021.