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Niantic Lightship Announced with AR Developer Kit

Niantic, the company behind the Pokémon GO game and creator of an innovative augmented reality (AR) platform has recently made an announcement regarding its new offering Niantic Lightship. It is fundamentally a renaming of the ‘Niantic Real World Platform’, but with some additions that give users enhanced experiences. The company is set to offer developers access to Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit (ARDK), letting them work on creating immersive and intuitive AR applications.

The revamped offering provides users access to the entirety of the Niantic platform and includes all the tools and offerings powering up the company’s games like Pokémon GO and Ingress. It also includes Pimkin content that Niantic has licenced through its partnership with Nintendo. According to the company, the Lightship program is setting the standards for large-scale augmented reality experiences and mapping.

The Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit gives developers multiple powerful tools which can be utilised for generating multiplayer offerings for users. These are made possible through the incorporation of elements such as occlusion, segmentation, and physics.

According to Niantic, the private alpha release of Niantic Lightship ARDK this year has brought about considerable engagement from many game developers, product developers, non-game developers, and support providers. The interest in testing out this technology has been high. Input obtained from developer feedback has been used to enhance the augmented reality features, tools, and documentation of the platform. The private beta version of ARDK uses many sophisticated tools and provides advanced capabilities in terms of real-time mapping, multiplayer functionality, and semantic segmentation.

The development uses neural networks and smartphone cameras to facilitate real-time mapping. Mapping an environment in real-time is made possible with the result being a tessellated triangle mesh and a machine-readable physical world render. Meshing is a way for facilitating more realistic physics when it comes to virtual objects.


Semantic segmentation is a feature that differentiates between different characters and objects within a given space. These include buildings, real-world objects, ground, and sky. The feature is important for ensuring that the different virtual objects look and feel realistic. Lightship is capable of performing automatic segmentation of various outdoor objects within any setting. It enables the interaction of designated surfaces with augmented reality content.


Niantic Lightship also improves the scope of multiplayer functionality by letting developers utilise enhancements to networking, colocalisation, and more. Multiplayer experiences can be enjoyed by eight players and they can be part of an AR experience together. They can take advantage of features such as messaging and backend access to customise their experiences through collaboration. According to Niantic, developers can rely on long-term content access to create compelling augmented reality experiences in the future.


According to Kei Kawai, Niantic Vice President of Product Management, said that the company is creating a global 3D map with help from its player base to create new immersive experiences. He elaborated that the combination of AEDJ and Lightship will help Niantic offer a vast array of technologies to customers for the creation of tailor-made experiences.

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