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June 1, 2023
Niantic Introduces Major Updates to Lightship and 8th Wall Platforms for Developers at AWE USA 2023
  • Lightship ARDK 3.0 includes integration with Unity’s AR Foundation, set to open in public beta in June

  • Lightship Maps for Unity makes it easier for developers to integrate maps directly into mobile AR applications

  • 8th Wall Metaversal Deployment (build once, deploy everywhere) now supports video passthrough for mixed reality headsets

  • Expanded Shared AR tools for 8th Wall and Lightship platforms

At AWE USA 2023, Niantic advanced our mission of powering AR everywhere by showcasing new tools for developers who use Lightship ARDK and 8th Wall.

With Lightship ARDK 3.0, Unity developers can seamlessly mix and match Niantic’s unique AR features with Unity’s AR Foundation and XR subsystems. For the first time since the launch of Lightship ARDK, developers can now use Niantic’s features in combination with existing AR Foundation libraries. Additionally, this new integration makes it easier to override or extend XR Settings so developers can easily add advanced AR features to basic AR concepts. This allows developers to mix and match the AR features they want from best in class Semantic Segmentation, Occlusion, Meshing, Mapping, and Shared AR.

Lightship ARDK 3.0 also sets the stage for compatibility with wearable headsets, starting with Snapdragon Spaces-powered devices later this year. At AWE, we announced, in partnership with Qualcomm, the first cohort of ten AR companies who will have access to Lightship VPS with Snapdragon Spaces to bring Niantic’s precise, persistent 3D map of the world service to XR headset development.

Brian “Bam” McClendon delivering a keynote address at AWE 2023

In a keynote address, Niantic SVP of engineering Brian “Bam” McClendon shared Niantic’s updated tools for both Lightship ARDK 3.0 and 8th Wall, and he talked about the company’s vision for more open, cross-device development opportunities to build AR experiences anywhere, from mobile phones to mixed reality headsets.

“Niantic focuses on maps at the scale of humans, maps that work at eye level, within the context of real locations” said Brian “Bam” McClendon, SVP of engineering at Niantic. “We’re able to position realistically because of our scanning frameworks and maps APIs. At Niantic we believe in AR everywhere, all at once, for everyone.”

Lightship Maps for Unity

In addition to ARDK 3.0, Lightship Maps for Unity allows developers to utilize the same base maps that Niantic uses for our own games. The updated Lightship Maps SDK allows developers to connect their existing and new games and applications to the real world and provide missions and game mechanics that leverage the map.

8th Wall Extends to XR Headsets

For WebAR developers, the 8th Wall platform’s Metaversal Deployment to build once and deploy everywhere now supports mixed reality headsets, starting with the Meta Quest Pro and the Meta Quest 2. Metaversal Deployment was designed for a new responsive web where immersive websites need to adapt to a device ecosystem, which now includes flat screens and wearable headsets. One of the key benefits of Metaversal Deployment is allowing users to access the same AR-enabled website on any device and have a meaningful experience, whether as 3D on computers, AR on mobile, or mixed reality on passthrough capable devices. This in turn gives developers the widest reach possible for the content they have created.

Wol is a mixed reality experience powered by 8th Wall that transforms your space into the redwood forest and introduces you to an AI-enabled owl you can talk to about the forest and its ecosystem.

Shared AR

It’s long been our belief that people benefit when we explore the world together. Today we’re excited to make AR more community oriented with new Shared AR tools in 8th Wall. With Shared AR in 8th Wall, multiplayer capabilities are available out of the box to help developers:

  • Create social and immersive AR experiences for hundreds of concurrent users.
  • Build synchronous and asynchronous multiplayer experiences that power longer and more memorable WebAR experiences that keep audiences coming back for more.
  • Leverage cross-device support for mobile, desktop, and headset users.

Shared AR makes WebAR more social, and brings people together within augmented reality experiences in the browser.

Create social and immersive AR experiences for hundreds of concurrent users that extend dwell time

New Shared AR features in Lightship ARDK are coming soon, including improved networking and co-localization with either image targets or Lightship VPS. And like the other updates to ARDK 3.0, better integration with familiar Unity features like Netcode for GameObjects.

Advancing the Use of GenAI and AR through Niantic Innovation Labs

In March, we began the first cohort of developers exploring the possibilities of genAI and WebAR. Those developers took the stage in the Niantic Lounge at AWE to talk about their experience and showcase their projects. At AWE, we also extended the Niantic Innovation Labs program to a second cohort of developers focused on mixed reality headsets and WebAR.

Our vision for powering AR everywhere means we will continue to build the features and functionality of our developer tools and platforms with Lightship and 8th Wall, as well as further build out our AR map of the world. Additionally, we’ll continue to expand cross-platform development tools to ensure developers have the best open, cross-platform tools and services available to build their own AR and location-based real world digital experiences.

To learn more about building with Lightship please visit
To learn more about building with 8th Wall and to see thousands of WebAR experiences, including more than 2,500 commercial experiences, please visit

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