- Niantic, the maker of hit game "Pokémon Go," is expanding its location-based augmented reality (AR) platform to include a wider group of sponsors, creators and software developers, per company blog posts. Those expanded AR experiences will urge mobile users to explore more of the real world instead of sitting at home in what CEO John Hanke described as the "anti-Amazon" model, according to VentureBeat — a reference to how the e-commerce giant will deliver goods directly to customers' homes.
- Starting next month, Niantic will start a beta test to let small- and medium-sized businesses sponsor locations that appear in the company's location-based AR games. That means a business can create a digital signpost that's only visible to players of games like "Pokémon Go." Other location-based AR games include "Ingress" and the newer "Harry Potter: Wizards Unite."
- The game developer also launched the Niantic Creator Program to urge AR innovation, and started the Niantic Beyond Reality Fund to incubate startups that develop applications for the Niantic Real World Platform, the company's "gameboard of the world." Niantic is additionally testing a multiplayer integration for "Pokémon Go" with the working title "Buddy Adventure" that lets players share AR experiences, per the announcement.
By allowing smaller businesses to sponsor their locations in location-based games, incubating new ideas and integrating its platform with other apps, Niantic is taking a step toward the goal of creating a more robust computer-generated parallel universe to the real world.
Location-based AR has plenty of commercial potential in giving marketers the ability to reach mobile customers as they move around the world. However, the space is still is in the early stages of development. Smartphone users currently aren't able to hold up their phones and see an array of digital signage for every store along a city block, but that's where location-based AR appears to be headed.
The expansion of next-generation 5G networks is expected to spur development in location-based AR, which requires more bandwidth to push computer-generated content onto smartphones. 5G connections are predicted to hit 1 billion by 2023, with most of the growth taking place in China, according to CCS Insight.
Meanwhile, worldwide spending on AR and virtual reality (VR), which provides a completely immersive computer-generated experience, is forecast to jump about 70% this year to $20.4 billion, per the International Data Corp. The researcher forecast that the top industries to spend in AR/VR would include personal and consumer services ($1.6 billion), retail ($1.56 billion) and discrete manufacturing ($1.54 billion).
While AR technology still is in a formative stage, it has significant support from tech giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft that have created software development kits to help designers more easily create AR-compatible apps. Adobe and Unity are among the software companies that have developed AR authoring tools that don't require coding know-how to develop more immersive AR experiences, while Snapchat and Facebook have introduced similar software to create AR content in their respective social apps.