September 4, 2020
Niantic, the company that successfully created augmented reality experiences of Pokémon, Harry Potter and other intellectual properties, revealed its plans to offer its own consumer AR platform, with hardware, software and support for third-party developers. The Niantic Planet-Scale AR Alliance is a coalition of cell phone partners, including Deutsche Telekom, EE, Globe, Orange, SK Telecom, SoftBank Telus and Verizon that will distribute “exclusive 5G-ready AR content,” publicly demonstrating 5G consumer AR experiences.
VentureBeat reports that the telecoms, which represent the U.S., UK, South Korea, Japan, Australia, the Philippines and part of Europe, will provide a collective marketing effort and “large number of retail locations [that] could play a critical role in popularizing consumer AR across the world.” Niantic described its Planet-Scale AR Alliance here.
Niantic, which is basing its technology on Qualcomm’s Snapdragon XR2 platform, is “one of several companies pushing to expand augmented reality from $3,500 industrial headsets like Microsoft’s HoloLens to affordable consumer products.” Further, it believes its track record with notable AR content “will help it win customers who might otherwise look at consumer AR headsets from Nreal, Facebook and Apple.”
The company stated that its partnerships with telecoms will allow it to test “reality blending” and “synchronous multiplayer features with 5G capabilities like ultra-reliable low latency communications and edge computing, which are still in early deployment stages across the world.”
Through its popular “Pokémon” app, Niantic reported that it has 7+ million “interesting and mapped locations,” and 1+ billion downloads of its existing apps. It said it wants to “make AR experiences mirror the real world [that can be shared by] tens of millions of Niantic explorers.”
VB notes that, “while a follow-up to the Quest VR headset is expected to hit stores this year, Facebook has suggested that its own AR headset is years off, leaving the door open for smaller but still ambitious companies to develop the nascent AR space.”
Engadet notes that, although Niantic has gathered “a telecommunications dream team with some of the world’s biggest carriers,” it’s not yet clear how its planet-scale AR platform “will differ from [its] existing projects, though … [it] seems confident in its mission to augment the world.” The company bought 6D.ai, a 3D mapping startup, in March and continues to update it; this is the foundational software for “Pokémon Go” and “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite.”