iantic Labs recently announced that their revolutionary Lightship Visual Positioning System (VPS) will become compatible with Qualcomm’s XR developer platform, Snapdragon Spaces, in 2023.
In the same announcement, they also shared a reference design for an augmented reality (AR) headset that will utilize the VPS technology, created in partnership with Qualcomm.
Niantic labs is an AR software development company located in San Francisco, CA. They create AR games that allow the user to interact with digital assets in the real world. One of their most popular projects is Pokémon GO, a mobile game that allows users to “catch” digital Pokémon creatures in real life locations using the Pokémon GO app on their smartphone.
The foundational element of Niantic’s games is the Lightship VPS, which pulls data from a 3D AR map of the world that Niantic has developed (and is still developing). Using the map within the Lightship VPS, developers can pinpoint, to an accuracy of centimeters, the exact global location and orientation of an AR device. Then, they can place AR content in specific areas that will persist across users’ unique sessions.
To put it in simpler terms, let’s say that the developer of an AR experience, like the Pokémon Go game, wants to make a Pokémon character visible by an AR device like a smartphone in a particular location. For example, they may want you to find a Charizard next toa specific bus stop in your hometown. They can find that location within the Lightship VPS and add the Charizard to it as AR content, discoverable by anyone playing the Pokémon Go game on an AR-compatible device.
The process is a little more complicated than that, but you get the gist. The important thing is that this technology has the capacity to enhance not just gaming, but real-life experiences like never before.
That’s what makes Niantic’s latest reveal so exciting. Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces is a developer platform where software developers can design immersive experiences for AR glasses. Adding the Lightship VPS to their list of existing tools - which includes spatial mapping and meshing, object recognition and tracking, image recognition and tracking, and more - paves the way for future innovation in the world of AR.
In addition to their upcoming integration, Niantic also announced that they are currently partnering with Qualcomm to develop a reference design for a pair of AR glasses. (You can see a preview of it here.)
These AR glasses are designed with outdoor use in mind, so that users can enhance their real-world experiences with virtual objects and digitally presented information.
Imagine wearing Niantic and Qualcomm’s design for AR glasses on a trip to the Washington Monument. As soon as you turn your glasses to face the Monument, historical facts and supplementary imagery pops into your vision. You’re able to not just view the tourist attraction, but also experience multiple facets of it at once.
That’s just an offhand example of what could be possible with these innovative technologies that Niantic Labs and Qualcomm are working on. It’s an exciting sign of the times for AR.