• The platform leverages location-based technology to recognize local environments, enabling developers to monitor and position objects through visual and mapping tools effortlessly.
  • The core of this update is ‘multiplayer co-localization,’ which utilizes Lightship’s Visual Positioning System (VPS) for seamless participation in shared AR experiences.

Niantic Inc., the creative force behind the augmented reality game “Pokemon Go” and the groundbreaking Lightship AR platform, has unveiled its latest innovation: Lightship ARDK 3.0. This augmented reality developer toolkit introduces Unity support, enhanced meshing capabilities, and simplified multiplayer support.

Niantic claims that this release is the most complete collection of available augmented reality tools and services, offering sophisticated augmented reality for devices without lidar or light detection and ranging, like common smartphones and tablets.

When people use mobile phones or smartglasses that hover in place and appear as part of the world, augmented reality, or AR, overlays virtual objects over what they can see. With Lightship, developers can code these objects to engage with the physical world and users, taking on roles as characters in games, serving as advertising platforms, transforming into virtual storefronts, acting as web interfaces, or becoming information kiosks.

The platform uses location-based technologies to recognize nearby areas, making it simple for developers to track and position objects using mapping and visual cues. As a result, when they create a game or application, they will always be able to track a virtual object or element no matter where it is in the world. Developers can now reach even more users with cross-platform support for iOS and Android devices and support for the Unity graphics and game engine.

Senior Vice President of Engineering and Business Lead for Niantic platforms, Brian McClendon said, “Lightship 3.0 is the most complete set of advanced augmented reality tools and services making it easy to work with and easy to transform the real world. Lightship is ideal for Unity developers who want to add location AR and visual AR features to their existing games and applications, and the perfect starting point for anyone who wants to build entirely new real-world mobile projects from the ground up.”

The update’s main feature is multiplayer co-localization, which enables users to easily join shared augmented reality experiences using the Lightship Visual Positioning System, or VPS. Users only need to point their phone at a location scanned into VPS to join a multiplayer session and be instantly integrated into an experience. This eliminates the need for users to enter a Quick Response code to activate an AR app.

It accomplishes this by using a technique known as “meshing,” which, even on devices lacking specialized sensors, can generate excellent 3D simulations of the surroundings based on camera imagery. Because it can be used to determine the range and contours of objects in the real world, meshing is a top feature for AR applications. This helps provide the best experience when they shift as the viewer changes positions. In this manner, when the viewer moves, virtual objects will appropriately hide behind objects like a wall, a couch, or a tree.

Since AR apps can now identify their location in the real world without using codes or specialized symbols, Niantic refers to this as “bringing the spatial computing to the real world.” All they have to do is make use of the world as it is.

In Lightship 3.0, developers gain access to an expanded range of semantic segment classes, allowing their applications to better comprehend the surroundings by distinguishing various elements within them. Something like the distinctions between the sky, the ground, structures, water, grass, and other objects are examples of semantic segments. Niantic claims that AR apps can now track more than 20 distinct classes, contributing to a more natural experience.

After being released in beta form in June, Lightship 3.0 is now generally accessible and free for all developers to use, along with the most recent updates, at Niantic’s developer portal.