Niantic presented its vision of a “real-time metaverse”. For these purposes, the company has released Lightship, an almost completely free set of tools for creating AR games and applications. The company also launched its own $20 million developer fund.

The new ARDK (AR development kit) from Niantic will give developers access to tools that are used in the company’s games and products:

  • semantic segmentation — allows you to scan the landscape and correctly integrate AR elements into it (for example, place objects on buildings or water surfaces);
  • creating three—dimensional grid maps in real time – using neural networks, the application converts information from the phone camera and creates a grid of triangles based on it, adding interactive AR objects to the real world;
  • multiplayer features — allows you to integrate online functions and social elements into the application (games, joint treasure hunting, etc.).

ARDK is suitable for creating AR games, applications and other products. Niantic also notes that the new tool can be used to promote its own brands and integrate them into the future global AR ecosystem.

Lightship will be completely free for the first six months. Starting in May 2022, Niantic will start charging $5 for every 10 thousand monthly active users (relevant only for developers of multiplayer AR applications with MAUS over 50 thousand).

At the same time, the company announced the opening of the Niantic Ventures fund, which now has $20 million at its disposal. They will go for “investments in application developers who share the company’s vision of the metaverse in the real world and contribute to the creation of a global AR ecosystem.”

As part of the presentation on the occasion of the launch of Lightship, Niantic CEO John Hanke once again stressed the importance of bringing people together in the real, not virtual world.

“We believe that people are happiest when the virtual world brings them to the real one. Unlike the sci-fi metaverse, the real—time metaverse will use technology to improve our perception of the world we have known for millennia,” he noted.

Hanke had previously criticized the concept of metaverses. He called them a “dystopian nightmare.” Instead, he wants the real world to be endowed with additional digital information and AR elements. This is how, according to Hanke, technology can make our lives better.

The release of the Niantic AR toolkit took place against the background of recent announcements related to the metaverses. In late October, Facebook renamed the company Meta, announcing its ambitions to create a digital metaverse. Soon after, Microsoft made similar statements, announcing a similar concept based on the mixed reality Mesh platform.