When Niantic Inc. and Nintendo brought Pokemon Go to the world, the landscape of Augmented Reality games changed forever. The fever pitch of the game’s exploding popularity was never in question, as it crossed the $1 billion revenue mark in a mere 6 months. It recorded the highest download count in any app’s first week, and raced to the $500 million line faster than any app in history. Fast-forward 2 years, and though the game is still going strong with a healthy monthly active user base, the initial craze has died down quite a bit.
Today, in order to recapture that lost magic, Niantic announced plans to open up its Augmented Reality platform – dubbed the Niantic Real World Platform – to third party developers. This is its first large-scale project since acquiring the AR company Escher Reality back in February. For further support of the project, Niantic also announced its acquisition of machine-learning company Matrix Mill. In a new video showcasing the tech, we see comparisons between traditional AR and Niantic’s new Occlusion AR. The traditional AR viewfinder has a Pikachu running around the screen, but the AR model is seen eclipsing real-life objects when it runs into them. However, in the two subsequent Occlusion examples, we see both a Pikachu and Eevee ducking behind real-world objects and disappearing, adding an additional layer of realism to the application. What is equally impressive is the tech’s ability to handle two Pokemon running around the screen at the same time while maintaining object occlusion.
While Niantic states that this technology is still in the proof-of-concept stage, the potential for more immersive AR gameplay is always encouraging. The company describes the tech in more detail on the channel:
This technology redefines how machines see and understand the 3D world and more importantly, how digital objects can interact with the real elements of it. Using computer vision and deep learning we are able to develop techniques to understand 3D space enabling much more realistic Augmented Reality (AR) interactions than are currently possible. In the above AR experience of Codename: Niantic Occlusion, you can see Pikachu and Eevee weaving through and around different objects in the real world, dodging feet and hiding behind planters. This level of integration into the environment around us is a proof-of-concept that excites us about the future of AR.
As of right now, there is no set timeline as to when we would actually see this type of tech appear in games. Perhaps with third-party support, in-game integration will arrive faster than anticipated. Gone are the heyday of Pokemon Go, but the possibility of implementing a more challenging complexity and realism to future AR titles is promising nonetheless.