Spring has arrived for Niantic and the 8th Wall | AR Post
It has already been a year since Niantic acquired 8th Wall. While acquisitions can be a scary thing in the tech world, the two companies are growing and growing stronger through their partnership.
Pillars of the Earth
Niantic and 8th Wall are two AR companies that might be bigger and more important than some realize. However, they both approach AR architecture and accessibility from different angles. Their meeting was a game-changer, it’s hard to underestimate.
Caitlin Lacey, Niantic’s Senior Director of AR Product Marketing, helps us understand what companies are doing in their own products and projects, and how they help each other grow and develop.
I joined Niantic a year ago primarily to focus on Lightship, and one of the things that really got me excited about coming on board was the acquisition, said Lacey. Having 8th Wall in the Niantic family definitely made it better.
For some readers, Niantic is synonymous with Pokemon Go. If you Ctrl+K Niantic, Google Docs suggests the Pokemon Go website as a link option. Other readers will recognize this as a gross misrepresentation. Pokemon Go may have made Niantic a household name, but that only scratches the surface of what the historic and legendary company actually does.
In addition to games (including the just-released AR real-world pet game Peridot), Niantic probably has the largest and most detailed working virtual map in the world. A few years ago, this was a good trick. As devices become more powerful and augmented reality gains traction, it increasingly becomes something much more.
Niantic games gather data for this virtual map of the world, but they also have a dedicated platform called Lightship that developers use to fill in the blanks, add details, and create their own experiences. Whether you’re building or playing, you’re using an app.
Like its parent company, readers have likely seen the 8th Wall logo on an AR experience but might not realize the scale of the operation. Much like its parent company, users can experience 8th Wall both through experiences they enjoy or through developer tools.
Over the years, 8th Wall has expanded its developer tools and experiences to make them easier to use and accessible on more devices. The company has tools for augmenting the world around a user, as well as augmenting the users themselves through lenses and filters.
8th Walls experiences and developer tools are web-based. No app installation required, they’re well positioned to work on just about any connected device.
web and apps
Applications have a certain gravity bringing obstacles and opportunities. People know how apps work and they know what to expect. Applications can run larger and deeper experiments, but they only do one thing at a time. These two necessary forces are at odds when people expect an experience to do everything and do it well, an unrealistic expectation called the metaverse.
It took a long time to train people to use the apps, but now they are trained, said Lacey. However, as she points out, if you envision a future where all of these mobile technologies have augmented reality capabilities, opening and switching apps can become a hassle.
WebAR is improving all the time, but it’s still limited in terms of the experiments it can run. Thinking about being on the go makes it worse as people are far from stable home networks and rely on overloaded public networks or potentially spotty data coverage.
There are still limits to experience and file sizes that the web just can’t handle, said Lacey. As computing power continues to grow and strengthen, see better experiences across all platforms.
In the meantime, both companies are striving to leverage their strengths in apps and webAR, respectively trying to get the best of both worlds in both worlds.
On the Lightship side, there were tons of technologies that were very app-based. We took this and asked, what do you want and how can we put it on the web? said Lacey. And then, on the other side, bringing stuff from the web to Lightship.
Niantic and 8th Wall Updates and Releases
Over the past few weeks, there have been some exciting changes for developers using both development platforms, including some of these updates that look a lot like cross-pollination between the two platforms.
Sky and world effects
First, Sky Effects and World Tracking came to 8th Wall. They are two distinct development tools that allow an AR experience to augment the sky itself or help AR elements appear realistically in the physical world. However, when used together, a single experience can connect earth and heaven in new and immersive ways.
With sky and world effects, an object falls from the sky, recognizes the environment and can interact with that environment, said Lacey. We saw this happening at all levels and there are more to come.
To celebrate the launch, 8th Wall hosted the Sky Effects Challenge which challenged developers to use new technology in interesting and inventive ways. Creators turned the sky into a canvas, mapped planets, and more.
We are constantly amazed by what our community builds, said Lacey.
A cross-device analysis framework
A new Scanning Framework for Lightship AR Developers Kit 2.5 allows users to virtually reconstruct physical spaces and objects without LiDAR. LiDAR is one of two common methods of capturing spatial data on mobile devices, but it is only available on high-end iOS devices. Opening Scanning Framework to other methods greatly increases accessibility.
We have continually heard feedback and are listening, said Lacey. We really want to be a consistent partner for developers in the AR space. We believe AR can help make the world more interesting and fun.
Two new games
Earlier this year, Niantic launched NBA All World. The app includes basketball mechanics and a partnership with the NBA, and expands to incorporate elements that make it more than just a game.
Our version of an NBA basketball game starts with exciting head-to-head gameplay and expands from there to include major elements of basketball culture, including music, fashion , sneakers, etc., all of which are embedded in real locations, Niantic Founder and CEO John Hanke said in a blog post.
If that wasn’t enough, as you read this, Peridot will be live. The highly anticipated game encourages players to take care of an AI-powered virtual pet, including feeding, petting and playing with it. Players can also use the Niantics Campfire social platform to meet other players and create unique new peridots (or dots).
I’m not a big basketball fan and Pokemon is a chapter of my life that ended a long time ago, but I’ve had my Dot Erin for a few days now. Erin mostly hangs out near my office eating sandwiches, but she was pretty excited to see the spring flowers in my garden the other day.
Much more to come
Lacey said many more updates from Niantic and 8th Wall will continue to strengthen both platforms for the benefit of developers and end users. There are also some interesting art activations coming in the coming weeks. And, of course, were delighted to Peridot become accessible to the public. There’s definitely a lot more to come from this power pair.