Niantic, maker of ‘Pokémon Go’, offers up a ‘real-world metaverse’

It will be called Lightship and the focus will be on AR glasses.


Niantic, the company behind the smash-hit mobile game, Pokémon Go, is back and launching something new: A platform called Lightship that was described by CEO John Hanke to The Verge, as something for building “real-world metaverse” apps.

While Pokémon Go is certainly still around and kicking, even dealing with some pushback after walking back some pandemic-friendly features, its parent company has been testing the waters with facilitating broader AR experiences. The announcement of Lightship is in line with what the company is known for — creating an empire of top-notch AR games that force users to interact with their environments.

This week marked the opening of Lightship to developers, providing a software toolkit that is mainly free outside of a premium feature that allows multiple devices to access the same AR experience simultaneously. Additionally, Niantic will be allocating $20 million to fund nascent companies looking to build AR apps. It would seem that the new platform is the tip of the iceberg to create a more immersive AR experience for the populace.

Bridging the gap— In the aforementioned piece from The Verge, Hanke noted that Lightship is “built around the parts necessary to stitch together the digital and real world.” The platform allows mobile apps to identify what a user’s camera is aimed at, whether that may be the sky or a body of water, and then it maps the surfaces and depths of said environment in real-time, sometimes placing a virtual object behind a physical one.

Next year, Niantic plans on implementing a new “visual position system” for AR glasses, which would give them displays that understand exactly where they are located in the real world, allowing virtual objects to then stay grounded in real, physical locations. That mean Pikachu wouldn’t lose a step even if you moved from the park to a hiking trail.

Ultimately, Lightship is meant to cater to developers while facilitating the progress of tech that keeps people engaged with their physical surroundings: “There’s a fork in the road,” Hanke told The Verge. “One path goes in this direction of apps that are not connected to the world around us and not helping us connect with the people who we are around.”