The same tools that let people run around gathering Pokemon in the park could be opening to many more people soon. Developer Niantic’s newly renamed world-scanning AR-enabled platform, Lightship, is starting to work with invited partners in a private beta that aims to open up further later this year. Maybe for immersive theater? Or outdoor community games? Museum exhibits? Who knows?
Lightship, formerly known as Niantic Real World Platform, is the company’s vision for multiplayer phone-based AR that can work across iOS and Android. Right now, augmented reality on phones tends to be a single-person experience, or is funneled into multiperson experiences built by specific companies, for example Microsoft’s, or . , being developed with Niantic, wants build off similar multiplayer concepts.
Lightship can scan the real world and map it for AR, much likeiPhone and iPad tech — but it also can do it without needing lidar. Niantic acquired a that will map 3D landscapes and crowdsource world maps with regular phone cameras, and it’s really being used in this software toolkit.
There are some limits to Lightship. The multiplayer is restricted to eight people at the same time for shared AR experiences in the same place at this time, and any collaborative AR building of objects is likely to be “ephemeral,” according to Niantic, meaning none of it’ll be permanently stored to geographic locations. But eventually, this is the longer-term plan.
The private beta applications are over on Niantic’s developer site, but Niantic suggests an even more open beta will be just around the corner. Niantic’s not revealing who early private beta participants are right now, but the company has recently announced partnerships with Nintendo and . One early music AR project, Rhizomatics, was shown by Niantic last year. It gives a notion of what other apps could do.
Niantic’s Lightship isn’t made for AR headsets yet, just phones (and maybe compatible tablets). But the company’s already exploring the future of AR glasses through partnerships with possible AR glasses.and , and has teased its own
We might hear more in the future, but the possibilities for things like music festivals, sports or any other large-scale outdoor gathering are definitely intriguing. If nothing else, it may be getting easier for an entrepreneurial indie game developer to generate the next Pokemon Go.