Pokemon Go Creators Headed for the Metaverse

by Boaz Feldman

Anyone who works in augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), or is trying to find their own slice of heaven in the forthcoming metaverse, owes a lot to Niantic, the developer of Pokemon Go. It wasn’t the first gaming system to use AR as part of its functionality, but there is no doubt it was the most successful. Free-to-play and capitalizing on the already massie Pokemon franchise, the game brought the pocket monsters into the real world via an AR lens. In 2016 alone, it was downloaded more than 500 million tims, still had 147 million monthly users by mid-2018, surpassed 1 billion downloads in Q1 2019, and in 2020 grossed more than $6 billion in revenue. It exposed AR to the world like nothing before it, and nothing since - making the term go mainstream, get massive media exposure, and become part of our popular culture.Granted it also led to a lot of people running into each other while walking and staring at their smartphones, and had many going on private property without permission, but you can take the bad with the good! 

Augmented Exposure Therapy

Niantic, which also produced Pikmin Bloom, has announced its new effort, Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit, which would theoretically allow developers anywhere in the world to start producing their own presences in the AR metaverse. The software package gives developers access to the company’s cross-platform Lightship platform, which means they can build AR experiences on both iOS and Android devices using ARDK technology. Anything from Occlusion APIs to real-time 3D mesh maps to multiplayer experiences is now on the table.“Sharing is a critical component to making all of these AR experiences feel real,” Niantic said in a press release announcing the new technology on November 8. “ARDK’s multiplayer APIs enable developers to easily create AR sessions supporting up to five players concurrently. This allows for more interactive and collaborative applications that feel realistic and seamless, keeping virtual content, players, and their interactions in sync, all in real-time.” 

Concurrently, the company will be releasing Niantic Ventures, a new investment program designed to support AR developers. Niantic has pledged to contribute $20 million in funding initially to other design companies interested in developing the real-world metaverse. It’s not just a small-time funding job though, Niantic has also started working with several major corporations on a private beta platform of the ARDK, including the Professional Golf Association (PGA), TRIPP, Coachella, Science Museum Group, and Warner Music Group. Coachella, in particular, has been a remarkable showcase of extended reality (XR) technology, which brought to life a hologram of long-dead rapper Tupac Shakur during its 2017 exhibition ,dazzling fans in person and on YouTube alike.

“AR enables us to engage with Coachella fans in ways unlike ever before,” said Sam Schoonover, Coachella Innovation, in an official statement. “At the festival, attendees will be able to experience the show in new, interactive ways. Globally, fans will be able to immerse themselves in Coachella no matter where they live. Our vision is a future where anyone in the world can experience Coachella from anywhere and AR tools from Niantic give us the unique ability to make that happen.”