Niantic Acquires 6D.ai with Plans for Large-Scale AR Projects

Niantic has acquired 6D.ai, an augmented reality company that is building a 3D map of the world via smartphone cameras. According to Niantic chief executive John Hanke, the resulting dynamic 3D world map will enable developers to create planet-scale AR experiences. On the company blog, he stated that, “this means we’re even closer to an AR platform that will unlock the ability for any developer to make content for current and future AR hardware.” Founded in 2017, 6D.ai was spun out of Oxford University’s Active Vision Lab.

“Niantic’s bread-and-butter is mobile games, specifically ‘Pokémon Go,’ but the company has raised nearly a half-billion dollars to do something more, building out a developer platform for augmented reality meant to rival what has been created by Facebook and Apple,” notes TechCrunch. “Acquiring 6D.ai is an interesting step further there.”

VentureBeat reports Hanke said that, “Niantic has always wanted to infuse our daily lives and routines with a bit of fun and adventure by building an augmented world that parallels the physical.”

“This bold pursuit requires significant advancements in AR technology that can only be made possible with an accurate and constantly updated 3D map of the real world,” he added. “Now, we’ll be able to leverage 6D.ai’s deep expertise and significant breakthroughs in AR research and engineering to further our ongoing work in support of our mission.”

Building “computer vision-based technologies and developer tools that solve … 3D reconstruction and AR persistence,” 6D.ai relied on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR technology.

On the Niantic blog, Hanke noted that integrating 6D.ai technology “means more AR experiences to come.” “And for developers, the company believes it has an innovative platform to bring their AR visions to life,” he said. “Imagine everyone, at the same time, being able to experience ‘Pokémon’ habitats in the real world or watch dragons fly through the sky and land on buildings in real-time … imagine our favorite characters taking us on a walking tour of hidden city gems, or friends leaving personal notes for others to find later.”

On the 6D.ai blog, chief exec Matt Miesnieks explained that the company “will be winding down [its] current developer tools over the next 30 days, and will shift focus to how [it] can help developers build realistic AR applications through the Niantic Real World Platform.”

“When [chief scientist] Victor [Prisacariu] and I first started 6D.ai, our mission was to solve the hardest computer vision software problems preventing developers from building engaging AR applications — to build API’s for the AR Cloud,” he wrote. “Within just a few years, we were able to build a platform that served up 3D persistent maps to thousands of developers and some of today’s Fortune 500 companies, creating a digital understanding of the world with just a smartphone camera.”