Niantic announced its acquisition of respected augmented reality (AR) startup Escher Reality, explaining that the AR firm will join Niantic game creators to help build cross-platform and multi-user experiences for mobile gamers around the globe – with the goal that players of AR games will be able to interact with each other within the game on a global scale.
But Niantic also has an exciting announcement for developers – you could soon get your hands on the Niantic real-world application platform technology that powers Pokemon Go, which means companies could use it to create their own AR characters and games.
"It’s our intention to make our cross-platform AR technology available more widely to developers later this year," Niantic CEO John Hanke wrote in a blog post. "Stay tuned for information on developer availability."
As part of the acquisition, Escher Reality will be integrating its work on mapping and computer vision technology into Niantic’s content and own AR platform.
"The long term vision is to help to bring shared and persistent AR experiences to millions of people around the world, and further realise AR's impact going forward," Escher CEO Ross Finman and CTO Diana Hu wrote in their own blog post.
Escher has been working on AR technology long before Pokémon Go found its global success in 2016. Escher started as an idea in the MIT sandbox two years and grew with support from investors including Autodesk.
It’s now dedicated to creating a toolkit for AR developers working on mobile specifically for multi platform and multi user experiences, setting it apart from Apple’s ARKit and Google’s ARCore which don’t offer this, as mentioned on our sister site Tech Advisor. One feature is 'persistent' AR, which means the location of virtual objects - such as Pokémon - in relation to the real world is remembered and multiple people can interact with an object simultaneously (i.e. it appears in the same place on both people's phones).
Niantic builds AR platforms for current AR hardware such as its upcoming Harry Potter Wizards Unite mobile game, Pokémon Go with its surprising success, and before that but less successful, was Ingress, a dystopian game based on society’s future relationship with technology (rather Black Mirror-esque).
Niantic says its real-world gaming platform includes a scalable engine for shared and user interactions which has already been proven to support "hundreds of millions of users", but Escher’s niche expertise in multi user experiences will surely help to bolster any existing technology. So we may soon be able to play AR games and interact with with other players within the game, an exciting new step for the future of AR gaming.
As AR technology accelerates, AR hardware is becoming more accessible too, such as the Asus Zenfone AR – the first phone on the market that is AR and VR compatible.
For more on AR, find out everything you need to know about designing with augmented reality. For more Pokémon Go news, check out our sister site, Tech Advisor.