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November 16, 2022
Building Real-World AR Software and Hardware with Qualcomm
  • Niantic’s Lightship visual positioning system will work with Snapdragon Spaces starting in 2023 

  • Both companies laid out their shared vision for an outdoor AR headset reference design

At Niantic, we’re inspired by a future where augmented reality makes the real world a place to connect with people and places around us in meaningful ways. We do this today through our games, and increasingly through our work to build an open AR platform that works across multiple devices–phones today and AR headsets in the future. 

Today we announced the next step in realizing this vision: Niantic’s Lightship Visual Positioning System will be compatible with Qualcomm Technologies’ Snapdragon Spaces™ starting in 2023. That means developers who use Snapdragon Spaces XR Developer Platform can easily add functionality from Lightship VPS (Visual Positioning System), so digital creations and experiences can be placed in and interact with the physical world in a magical yet believable way. 

Our shared goal is to help accelerate the development of AR headsets for outdoor use from hardware manufacturers across the industry.

We believe true AR will be best experienced on AR headsets made for the outdoors. For our part, we plan to make Lightship VPS available to power location-based AR experiences on as many hardware devices as possible. Our VPS makes digital objects and creations exist and stay in real-world locations, like they would if they were physical objects. So if one person places a digital object, another person can discover it in exactly the same location. That means digital AR experiences are like the social interactions people have in the physical world. 

An integral part of Lightship VPS is our dynamic 3D AR map of the world. This map is constantly updated and allows AR devices to establish their real-world position with centimeter-level accuracy, enabling the creation of immersive AR experiences rooted in real-world locations. 

This map means developers, consumer brands, creators, enterprises and anyone else wanting to build AR experiences can bring their ideas to life. Like making a building take on a fantastical theme, or giving users hyper-local walking and transit directions, or hiding a clue in a digital scavenger hunt under a park bench. 

This map requires an unprecedented level of detail so that phones or headsets can recognize their location and orientation in a highly accurate way anywhere in the world, like GPS, but without the satellites and at a much higher level of accuracy. Using this map, Lightship VPS means a phone or headset can be located down to the centimeter. 

Sharing our Vision for an Open Reference Design for AR Hardware

Niantic and Qualcomm are also working on a reference design for AR glasses, and unveiled a demo that showcases our vision for heads-up outdoor play.

The hardware reference design showcases the potential for outdoor-capable AR headsets that can orient themselves using the Niantic map and render information and virtual worlds on top of the physical world. The reference design will continue to evolve, and we are excited about the new Snapdragon AR2 platform that delivers ground-breaking technology to enable headset manufactures to quickly and more efficiently build sleek, commercial products based on our vision for consumers.

And there’s more to come as we look ahead toward compatibility with Lightship VPS for Web. Lightship VPS for Web is our first-of-its-kind WebAR technology that connects the real world with the digital one, transforming everyday locations into experiential destinations – right from the browser.

The impact of AR on our daily lives is yet to be fully realized and there are many more milestones to come. We’re excited to build its future together.

– Maryam Sabour, Niantic’s Head of Business, AR Headsets

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