News: Niantic Teases Smartglasses Running Its Popular AR Apps

Niantic Teases Smartglasses Running Its Popular AR Apps

Mobile augmented reality gaming pioneer Niantic is chomping at the bit to get games like Pokémon GO out of smartphones and onto smartglasses, and it appears to be taking matters into its own hands.

After previewing a proof of concept of Pokémon GO running on HoloLens 2 earlier this month, Niantic founder and CEO John Hanke on Monday shared a closely-cropped photo of a pair of smartglasses emblazoned the company's wordmark on the temple.

"Exciting to see the progress we're making to enable new kinds of devices that leverage our platform," said Hanke in the tweet accompanying the image.

In a subsequent tweet, Hanke name-drops work with Qualcomm on reference designs.

Despite the cryptic nature of the tweets, the company has already tipped its hand regarding its efforts in smartglasses development.

In 2018, Niantic made a strategic investment into waveguide display maker DigiLens, with Samsung eventually joining the Series C funding round that closed at $50 million.

Niantic's proof of concept with HoloLens 2 previews how Pokémon GO could work with AR wearables. Image via Microsoft

While DigiLens makes optical components intended for manufacturers to integrate into its own products, the company has also developed the DigiLens Crystal smartglasses reference design that it licenses to manufacturers looking to jumpstart product development.

In addition, through its Visualize Development Framework program, DigiLens has worked with Qualcomm to integrate the former's displays and the latter's Snapdragon XR2 processors into reference designs that look similar to the device shared by Hanke.

All of this doesn't mean that Niantic plans to sell branded smartglasses, but, if they do, these breadcrumbs do make DigiLens a clear candidate.

Hanke's tweet also makes a reference to the Niantic Real World Platform, which enables next-generation AR experiences on not only its own games but also for apps from other developers. So, if Niantic isn't planning to ship its own smartglasses, its financial and technical efforts facilitate the future of AR wearables.

The evolution from smartphones to smartglasses represents a huge opportunity for Niantic. Given its philosophy of getting people outside to play games, an ecosystem where players can interact with games in their field of view instead of gazing downwards at a touchscreen is quite simply a better experience. Whatever shape the Niantic's role takes, it's exciting to see that it is taking an active one.

Cover image via John Hanke/Twitter

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