Blog
May 13, 2021
Sustainable With Niantic: A Recap Of Our Latest Efforts

When we started our annual Sustainability Campaign back in 2018, our goal was to encourage a connection between Explorers, local nonprofits, and sustainability efforts. Now, four years and one pandemic later, we’re incredibly inspired by the impact  our players and our nonprofit partners are having in their communities. 

This year’s campaign looked a little different as we adjusted for the impact COVID. Instead of group cleanups, we embraced individual action, with the idea that many small contributions can make a big impact. Over the course of a week, participants chose to do at least one thing to help fight climate change. Once they had chosen and completed a task, we asked participants to share it on social media using #SustainableWithNiantic

Over just 3 days, almost 2,000 players in 33 countries recorded their positive impact on the planet, building bee hotels, planting native greenery, and collecting trash in their local neighborhoods. More than 400,000 players activated the avatar sustainability shirt, showing their collective support for our planet. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite also found ways to celebrate the Earth by boosting the amount of plant ingredients, seed, and water that could be found on the map. 

Although the player numbers did not quite unlock the first tier of rewards, Niantic was inspired by our players’ actions. We decided to plant 1,000 trees in places needing support as a way to bridge the gap and unlock rewards for players who participated. As a member of the Playing for the Planet Alliance, we love to see gaming and player communities come together to show their support for sustainability. If you’re looking for ways to get more involved, learn more about how you can help support healthy ocean ecosystems.

Suffice to say, we’re incredibly proud of the efforts that player communities made. Through the hard work of everyone participating, this world is a little better off. In addition, we’re happy to announce that the following nonprofit organizations will be receiving $5,000 each:

Congratulations to all who participated in this year’s Sustainability Campaign! Look for more activities as we continue our efforts to support the planet.

  • Social Impact Team
May 11, 2021
Niantic Expands Developer Platform and AR Tools with Niantic Lightship
Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit now in Private Beta

Today, the Niantic Real World Platform is getting a new name — Niantic Lightship — and we’re offering broader access to the new Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit (ARDK), enabling developers to build their own immersive, imaginative and unique AR applications.

Niantic Lightship encompasses the full Niantic platform, including the suite of tools and services that power Niantic games, from Ingress to Pokémon GO to our partnership with Nintendo to bring the Pikmin universe to our community. Niantic Lightship sets the industry standard for mapping and shared, planetary-scale AR experiences.

Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit is a robust set of tools that enable developers to create multiplayer experiences and bring them to life with depth, physics, occlusions, and semantic segmentation.

Sign up at Niantic.dev to join the private beta of the Niantic Lightship ARDK, as well as to learn more about Niantic Publishing.

The Niantic Lightship ARDK

Since we launched the Niantic Lightship ARDK as a private alpha earlier this year, hundreds of gaming and non-gaming developers have engaged with our engineering, product development and support teams to test the limits of what’s possible with our technology. Our teams have listened to their feedback to help shape the AR tools, features, documentation and core functionality of the Niantic Lightship platform. As a result of this work, the ARDK private beta incorporates a host of advanced tools, including enhancements in three key areas:

  • Real-time Mapping through advanced Meshing combines smartphone camera technology with a neural network, to map an environment in real time into a mesh of repeating tessellated triangles, resulting in a machine-readable representation of the physical world. In the Niantic Lightship ARDK, meshing makes "physics" possible for virtual objects.

  • Semantic Segmentation improvements in the beta distinguish between varied characteristics of a space — ground, sky, a building, etc. — so that virtual objects can look, feel and move in that space in realistic ways. Lightship can automatically segment different natural outdoor objects in a scene, enabling AR content to interact with specific surfaces.

  • More robust Multiplayer functionality allows developers to benefit from colocalization, networking and synchronization improvements, enabling immersive multiplayer experiences where up to eight players can share the same AR experience in the same real world space at the same time. Peer-to-peer messaging and back-end server features are built in, so developers can focus on sculpting the shared experience players will have. While this kind of content anchoring is currently ephemeral, we know that long-term virtual content anchoring will enable developers to build future AR experiences that persist.

 
Key features of the Lightship ARDK (Meshing, Multiplayer and Semantic Segmentation, left to right).

“Niantic is building the 3D map of the world hand-in-hand with its player base to power new kinds of immersive AR experiences,” said Kei Kawai, Niantic’s vice president of product management. “With the Niantic Lightship Platform and ARDK, we want to provide the richest selection of development tools and technologies, so any developer can create their own unique experiences.”

What Makes ARDK Unique?

Meshing is a foundational technology in the AR space, which Niantic enables on more devices than anyone else by leveraging common smartphone cameras. Niantic’s approach creates meshes using the RGB color sensors found in most cameras, rather than requiring LiDAR scanners only available on some high end devices. Our meshing technology scans the environment around a player, creating in real time a 3D map that allows any Lightship platform experience to place virtual content in the right physical place, combining context from the real world environment with the developer’s environment. The history of Niantic’s approach to meshing goes back to the earliest days of the company and incorporates the work of acquisitions including Matrix Mill and 6D.ai.

Our technology also blends seamlessly with phones that have LiDAR, including iPhone 12 Pro models, allowing developers using the Niantic Lightship ARDK to create dynamic maps for experiences without worrying about the specific devices, empowering the best experiences any hardware is capable of delivering.

What’s next?

We know the future of AR can only be more fully realized once we have a 3D map of the world. We are building our Virtual Positioning System (VPS) and advanced tools that allow AR experiences to leverage geolocation and persistent content anchoring with precision, while also supporting global scale.

We’re committed to working with developers, brands and creators to build AR apps that reflect their unique goals and deliver value to their audiences. We’re here to be your partner and look forward to seeing what we build together.

The Niantic Lightship team

April 13, 2021
Small Actions Add up to Big Change: Supporting Our Planet

In years past, we’ve worked with nonprofits to host local cleanup events for players around the world. In exchange, players have successfully unlocked the highest tiers of in game rewards across Pokémon GO and Ingress, year over year. Like many other companies, we unfortunately had to cancel the plans we had mapped out for April 2020 last year, as the global pandemic became a major concern.

This year, we’re excited to announce a new take on our sustainability efforts - we’re inviting players to take individual actions that support our planet with the belief that, if we all do something small, it can add up to big things. We have loved the local cleanup efforts that players and nonprofits have engaged in in the past, but this year we’re focusing on how we can effect change while staying safe. To unlock tiered rewards, we’re calling on you to choose one of the following actions:

  • Take Care of Your Community: pick up trash around your neighborhood
  • Adopt a New Sustainability Practice: plant a tree, shrub, or other native plant
  • Help Out a Local Cause: volunteer your time

Based on social sharing and the impactful actions taken by individual players, we’ll unlock in-game tiered rewards. Check out our website to learn more about what specific actions count towards unlocking in-game tiered rewards! We’re looking forward to seeing the impact you all make, and are ready to celebrate the Earth in many ways.

–Social Impact Team

#SustainableWithNiantic