On the surface, Buddy Adventure’s Shared AR Experience seems deceivingly simple: place up to three Pokémon from three different Trainers’ phones into the same space, and take a photo with all those Pokémon. Underneath, however, is a behemoth of a feature that melds the digital and physical worlds together in ways that will change the future of augmented reality (AR). With the release of the Shared AR Experience, Trainers worldwide can now experience the dream of embarking on a Pokémon journey with their Pokémon, their fellow Trainers, and their fellow Trainers’ Pokémon all together!
Emerging technologies—challenging but exciting!
Working with emerging AR technologies is an adventure unto itself, and anticipating issues was especially difficult during the development process. Designing a user experience that made sense and was intuitive was also difficult given that this feature uses emerging technology. Shared AR Experience had to be friendly to everyone, regardless of age, gaming and AR experience, or Pokémon knowledge.
“Not to mention, we had to consider compatibility among all of the different devices that shared AR would run on,” stated Pete Turner, the technical lead manager for the AR OS and AR service teams.
“Trainers have never played with anything like this before,” said Anvith Ekkati, technical lead for Niantic’s advanced computer vision team. “We had to make users feel comfortable with the user experience and be willing to learn to play.”
The team had done a user experience study for an early prototype of the feature, which found that different iterations of the feature were sometimes frustrating to navigate. But when users were able to see three Pokémon from different devices? There was a consistent reaction: “Wow!” The team was inspired by these users, who were completely blown away by the experience itself in spite of the technical difficulties in the early tests.
“But it was tough at first,” said Ryuta Hiroi, product manager and lead on Buddy Adventure and the Shared AR Experience. “We had so many ideas for how to make this AR experience as meaningful as possible, and we had to work together to focus. Every day was a surprise, but we’re really thrilled with how it turned out!”
A Shared AR Experience for Trainers, buddies, and all
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. —Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author
While a part of the Buddy Adventure feature focuses on cultivating the bond between a Trainer and their Buddy Pokémon, the Shared AR Experience brings that relationship to other Trainers. You can take a photo with your friends that includes your Buddy Pokémon and your friends’ Buddy Pokémon. Launching around the holiday season was intentional, as this is a time when folks celebrate with their loved ones. With the Shared AR experience, we hope Trainers can build a more intimate relationship not only with their Buddy Pokémon but with their friends and their friends’ Buddy Pokémon as well.
Augmenting reality—softer, richer, and more ambitious
Niantic’s mission is to encourage people to have adventures with others in the real world. AR augments your reality, so how do you use AR to help you discover more of the world around you? How can we push the boundaries of AR to connect people together and create new, unique, and enriching experiences? There are many answers to these questions, and we’re excited to see where AR can go from here, especially in our games.
“I hope Trainers have an amazing time with their buddies,” shared Kemi Azeez, lead technical program manager for the Shared AR Experience feature. “I hope everyone’s eyes are opened to how technology can enrich their experiences. I hope that Trainers can easily approach this feature and feel their lives become more enriched by it!”
Despite all the advanced technology powering the feature, at the end of the day, the Shared AR Experience serves as a way for Trainers to make memories with their Buddy Pokémon and with other Trainers.
“We can’t wait to see all the new photos people take with their friends and buddies,” said Ebby Wahman, feature architect and client engineer. “We want to see you express your creativity!”
“We are opening this new gateway towards new design possibilities,” shared Rob Giusti, the technical lead on AR game integrations. “We’ve helped make the dream of being a Pokémon Trainer in the real world come alive. What are some other ways we can bring fantasy to the real world and create meaningful experiences?”
One way we’re already working toward this seamless melding of the digital and real is with our partnership with Qualcomm to collaborate on new kinds of AR devices that will completely transform how we approach our games and augmented reality. Shared AR Experience is one step towards a larger and more immersive AR world for everyday people.
Developing Shared AR Experience was a unique and new challenge with an ambitious vision of a world made better by AR—one that builds on the Niantic mission of using technology to enrich real-world experiences. We’re so excited to continuously build on the capabilities set forth by a feature like this and to see where the future of AR grows from here.
—The Niantic Team