Niantic Labs is allowing anyone to get their hands on the technology that powers Pokémon Go and Pikmin Bloom in order to create their own augmented reality and “real-world metaverse” games. Niantic Lightship is now available for developers to use. Developers that “share our vision for the real-world metaverse and contribute to the global ecosystem we are building” will be able to apply for a $20 million investment fund, according to the firm.
Ninatic’s toolset allows developers to construct real-time 3D mesh maps so that apps can understand the surfaces and terrain of the world around them. Other APIs will assist apps in distinguishing between various features of an environment, such as the ground, sky, water, and structures. Developers can also use the toolkit to create apps that allow up to five players to participate in the same AR multiplayer session while keeping all of their material and interactions in sync.
The majority of the tools are free. Regardless of how many users an app has, the multiplayer APIs will be free for the first six months. After that, if the APIs are utilized in an app with more than 50,000 monthly active users, Niantic will charge a fee.
Universal Pictures, PGA of America, and Warner Music Group were among the companies that participated in a private beta of the developer kit. Coachella has designed an augmented reality experience that attendees will be able to try out next year. On the seven-story Spectra rainbow walkway tower, they’ll be able to watch a big version of Coachella’s butterfly landing.
Meanwhile, Shueisha is collaborating with developer T&S to use augmented reality to bring characters from One Piece and other manga to life. In 2022, that app will be available.
Niantic’s vision of the metaverse is very different from Facebook’s parent company Meta’s vision of a virtual reality-centered future. CEO John Hanke suggested in a blog post in August that the “real-world metaverse” is more about connecting the physical and digital worlds than it is about existing solely as a virtual experience. With that in mind, his company has been collaborating with Qualcomm on AR glasses for the past few years.