reators of Pokemon GO, Niantic, have developed a new world-scanning AR-enabled platform, Lightship. The platform is now being opened up to invited partners in the form of a private beta which the company plans to open to a broader audience later this year. 

Lightship, previously known as Niantic Real World Platform, is the company's vision for multiplayer phone-based AR that can work across iOS and Android devices. To date augmented reality on smartphones tends to be a single-person experience, or is funneled into multi-person experiences built by specific companies, such as Microsoft's Minecraft Earth, or Pokemon Go. Nintendo's upcoming Pikmin game, being developed with Niantic, looks to build off similar multiplayer concepts.

Lightship’s technology scans the real world and maps it out for augmented reality, similar to the Apple LiDAR scanner embedded in iPhone and iPad devices, however this technology works without your device needing a LiDAR. This is due to Niantic acquiring the company  6d.ai which developed a software toolkit which mapped 3D landscapes and crowdsource world maps with standard phone cameras.

However, there are some limitations to the Lightship platform. The multiplayer is limited to eight people at once for shared AR experiences in the same place right now, and any collaborative AR building of objects will not be permanently stored to geographic locations. But eventually, that is the company’s longer-term plan.

The first round of private beta applications are live on Niantic’s developer site, but the company suggests that a more open beta will be coming soon. Niantic are not planning on relieving the names of any early private beta participants at the moment, however, the company has recently announced a partnership with Nintendo and immersive theater company Punchdrunk. One early music AR project, Rhizomatics, was shown by Niantic last year. It demonstrated what potential other apps could achieve.

Currently, the company’s Lightship platform is not designed for augmented reality headsets as of yet. However the company is already exploring the future of augmented reality and AR glasses through one of its most recent partnerships with Microsoft and Qualcomm and have even teased the possibility of Niantic’s own AR glasses.

We look forward to more information being released about the Lightship platform and even more so to the entrepreneurial indie game developer to create the next Pokemon GO with this platform.

May 13, 2021
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