It seems clear that Niantic always had broader plans than simple casual gaming. The Google-supported startup’s 2016 title Pokémon GO is largely considered a major factor in helping to mainstream augmented reality technology. Now the company is looking to take things a step further, tapping its massive user base to help build some large-scale AR maps.
The plan was first reported by Reuters this morning, courtesy of a conversation with Niantic CEO John Hanke. The executive told the service, “We want players to build out the game board they want to play on,” adding that the world building would foster a “new kind of social activity.”
There’s no timeline for any of this. And it’s not entirely clear whether the mapping will be output from Pokémon or the company’s eagerly anticipated followup, Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. What is clear, however, is that the company plans to start in public spaces like parks, utilizing AR tech built by recent acquisition, Escher Reality.
The plan here is to build a larger platform that can be utilized by third parties. It’s a feature that’s only likely to grow in demand as major mobile players like Apple and Google push developers to build AR apps through initiatives like ARKit and ARCore.
Google, which has supported the company since its earliest days, has been reasserting its commitment to augmented reality this week at Google I/O through offerings like the upcoming walking navigation in Maps.