Pokémon Go developer Niantic has announced a new product that will create location-based AR experiences around the world. The program, called Lightship Visual Positioning System, was announced at the San Francisco Developer Summit.
VPS is a map of locations scanned and available for AR. At launch, it already has about 30,000 such locations, mostly in public places in San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, New York, Tokyo, and Seattle.
The number of such locations will increase. The developer relies on users of existing games. For a year now, Niantic has been asking Ingress and Pokémon Go players to record videos of individual PokéStops and Ingress portals. Anyone could scan in this way, no lidar is needed for this. At the same time, the players not only scanned individual locations but also helped the company choose priority places.
“We see where the most popular locations are. We have really good heat maps,” says the product director of the augmented reality and geodata platform owned by Niantic.
When multiple users record a location, Niantic uses video and additional sensor data to create a point cloud that allows developers to place AR objects in the 3D location space. According to the director, the accuracy reaches several centimeters. This allows developers to place AR experiences and permanent AR tags in real locations. They will also be able to add buildings, statues, and other real-world objects to their games.
Location data can be updated and improved. For example, if a shop is closed or a sculpture is restored. The world is changing fast, so keeping the maps up to date can be a challenge for the company.
In addition to the Visual Positioning System, Niantic has announced two more products for the new AR world. The Wayfarer application will allow developers to scan their locations and add them to the VPS.
Niantic is also launching a new custom product, Campfire, which it calls a “real-world social network.” During the launch, Campfire adds a social level to games like Ingress and Pokémon Go, so players can find each other, learn about events, share content, and more.