Niantic brings its Lightship augmented reality mapping system to web browsers


Continuing its efforts to bring the metaverse into the real world and not just the virtual world, Niantic Inc.The company behind the popular augmented reality game “Pokemon Go,” today announced the launch of its Lightship AR mapping system for web browsers.

This web-based AR is made possible through WebAR, a technology powered by 8th Wall, which Niantic acquired in March. Built on the 8th Wall platform, developers and businesses can deliver AR experiences in mobile browsers without the need for custom apps.

The system, called Lightship Visual Positioning System for Webuses advanced mapping and digitized visual data to position virtual objects in the real world for augmented reality content.

Augmented reality works by superimposing virtual objects, sometimes called holograms, onto what users can see when using their devices such as mobile phones or smart glasses. Using Lightship VPS, holograms can be positioned on statues or storefronts with centimeter precision anywhere in a city, enabling new experiences.

Using augmented reality, developers can create striking displays of virtual characters and objects that appear to interact with the real world. For example, an experiment could have the logo on the cereal box come to life, jumping and dancing on the table, with full awareness of the table surface, including avoiding the bowl of cereal left between it and the viewer. While walking outside, viewers could peek through their cellphones to see virtual airships floating in the sky and zipping past buildings or watching cartoon characters doing jumping jacks in the park.

Prior to the launch of Lightship VPS for web, developers had to code for specific AR apps to launch their experiences. Now, they no longer require apps and can instead launch directly into web pages, opening them up to a wider audience.

“At Niantic, we believe the real-world metaverse should inspire people to explore and connect with the world around them,” said John Hanke, CEO of Niantic. “The introduction of Lightship VPS to the web is a critical advancement for augmented reality, allowing developers to realistically merge digital content with the real world with precision and persistence.”

Developers using Lightship can add VPS-enabled locations to Niantic’s AR map, or take advantage of over 100,000 locations already VPS-enabled when launching their web apps to create their own location-based AR experiences.

These locations are not just public streets and landmarks, but publicly accessible locations, such as parks, trails, and local businesses. Niantic built this set of locations using its community using real-world location analytics by developers, surveyors, and players of its various games. Its users have contributed millions of locations, photos, and scans to bolster its network with essential data to make all AR experiences more powerful and vivid.

To demonstrate the technology, Niantic has partnered with several design studios around the world to develop visual displays attached to the monuments. Atomic digital design affixed a hologram, positioned using Lightship VPS on the famous Obelisk of Luxor in ParisFrance. Viewers can watch an AR display trigger around the obelisk with hieroglyphs and rings moving around the pillar with their phones or other mobile devices.

“Today marks a major milestone for the web and augmented reality,” said Tom Emrich, director of product management for 8th Wall at Niantic. “Lightship VPS unlocks extraordinary value for developers by giving them a new tool to create WebAR experiences that not only recognize where their users are in the world, but also gives them access to relevant information to better integrate virtual content into the place where it is experienced.”

Developers can start building with Lightship VPS for the web today by logging into their 8th Wall workspace or by register for a 14 day free trial.

Image: Niantic

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