The “real-world metaverse” is a term promoted by Niantic to describe the emergence of geographically anchored XR experiences. Niantic has long been behind the movement which has welled into their gradual development and rollout of the Lightship VPS. There’s another growing movement in AR – WebAR, for maximum accessibility and ease of use.
You know where this is going. Lightship VPS is now on the Web.
A Quick Recap
Niantic’s Lightship Augmented Reality Developer Kit (ARDK) went live shortly before AWE 2021, where CEO John Hanke further explained the tool.
“I really think we’re having a moment right now. AR, XR, are really at the center stage,” Hanke said at the time. “We think we can use this technology not to escape from reality into VR, but to build a better reality – a better world.”
The tool got a major update announced at a Niantic and 8th Wall independent summit this spring. That event explained the “virtual positioning system” (VPS), the availability of Niantic’s AR Map for use with the VPS, and the Campfire “real-world social network.”
Developers were empowered to create digital twins of specific locations, which were then positioned on the AR map, with AR elements placed on and around these twins, all of this within Niantic’s platform. That’s where this most recent announcement comes in.
How the Tool Came to WebAR
“Bringing Lightship VPS to the Web is a critical step forward for AR, enabling developers to realistically fuse digital content to the real world with precision and persistence,” Hanke said in a release shared with ARPost. “The early demos from partners around the world are exciting to see and we know this is only the beginning.”
“Bringing Lightship VPS to the Web” can be read as “bringing Lightship VPS to 8th Wall.” 8th Wall is one of the leading WebAR development platforms, purchased by Niantic two months before the developer summit that rolled out the VPS. This allows web developers to have access to the maps and tools that were previously only available to devs with Niantic’s app.
“Today marks a major milestone for the web and augmented reality,” 8th Wall Director of Product Management, Tom Emrich, said in the release. “This is another first for the browser, unlocked by Niantic’s 8th Wall platform, and makes WebAR feel more real, more personal and even more connected to the real world than ever before.”
App and WebAR developers can use the AR map to place activations in their neighborhood, but they can also use models created by other developers to place XR activations abroad. They can even use these digital twins to remotely test what their activations will look like for people physically visiting those areas.
There are millions of locations on the AR map, with over 100,000 built sufficiently for inclusion in the VPS.
Niantic launched the VPS for Web just about a week ago but there are already demos showcasing how developers are using the new tool format. One such demo, posted by Atomic Digital Design, turns the Luxor Obelisk in Paris into a towering alien artifact.
“Only the Beginning”
WebAR poses less friction than applications – although applications can often offer more robust features. While the objective isn’t for the WebAR version to replace the app, it certainly opens up these tools and features to a wider audience using a wider range of devices.