If you are an active player of Pokémon GO, you may soon be capturing more than just virtual pocket monsters.
When it comes to mapping the world, Niantic does not have the fleet of mapping cars that its former parent company, Google, has at its disposal. But it does have a community of active users from which the company can crowdsource 3D data for AR maps.
According to Niantic CEO John Hanke, via a report from Reuters on Wednesday, his company's AR maps will be built from data captured by players' cameras as they play Niantic's location-based AR games, which include Ingress and the forthcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, along with the uber-popular Pokémon GO. The AR maps would enable more robust experiences, such as virtual structures, that would be persistent between multiple players.
The computer vision-based multiplayer AR platform of Escher Reality, which Niantic acquired earlier this year, will serve as the foundation for the map. Niantic noted at the time that it would offer the multiplayer capabilities as a service to other developers.
"The addition of the Escher AR technology is incredibly exciting to us at Niantic as it significantly accelerates our work on persistent, shared AR as part of the Niantic real-world application platform," wrote John Hanke, the CEO of Niantic, at the time of the acquisition in a blog post.
While Google is bringing multiplayer experiences to Android and iOS via its Cloud Anchors technology, persistent shared experiences are still up for grabs in terms of snagging user attention. A number of AR cloud companies have emerged with proposed solutions, including two companies, Blue Vision and Ubiquity6, that Google has backed.
One of those companies, called 6D.ai, is taking a similar approach to Niantic. The company's technology can capture a 3D mesh with just a smartphone's camera and would be capable of running in the background to collect environmental data as users go about their daily activities.
By now, it's not a question of whether shared and persistent AR experiences will arrive, it's just a matter of which platform will emerge as the standard.