Niantic Labs, the developer behind the wildly successful Pokemon Go game, announced recently it will allow third party developers to use its augmented reality (AR) platform.

Two New Technologies

Along with expanding the availability of the platform Niantic also teased several advanced new features with capabilities far beyond its two closest competitors, Apple and Google. One such feature is what Niantic calls ‘occlusion’. This feature allows in-game characters to hide behind real world objects. To date, AR has only had the capability to superimpose characters over real world objects. The applications of this technology was instantly made apparent in the video demonstration released by Niantic. In the video, a Pokemon character hide behind a plant.

Another new feature teased by Niantic is object recognition. This new advancement will allow characters in games to interact with objects in the real world. For example, if the game were to recognize a user’s camera pointed at a real life flower, an in-game bee could come to pollenate it on screen. These new features come on the heels of Niantic’s recent purchases of EscherReality and Matrix Mill who helped develop them.

Real World Implications

The implications of these moves are potentially far-reaching.  With the possibility of applications of AR impacting fields as varied as medicine and entertainment, there seems no limit to what third party developers may do. In a statement regarding the announcement of these new technologies, Niantic CEO John Hanke said, ‘Because we are so excited about the opportunity in advanced AR, we want other people to be able to make use of the Niantic Real World Platform to build innovative experiences that connect the physical and the digital in ways that we haven’t yet imagined.’ This all falls in line with the company’s mission. Further in the statement, Hanke remarked, ‘We structured the company’s mission around three core values: exploration, exercise, and real-world social interaction.’ Niantic’s Real World platform promises to do just that.

A Thriving Company

To date, Niantic has quite a run of success. According to a recent report, Pokemon Go generated over $600 million in revenue, which pegged the company’s valuation at more than $3 billion. In keeping with the company’s mission statement, Hanke was no doubt delighted to learn users also walked an estimate 2.8 billion miles playing the game. These numbers should only increase as the company’s next highly anticipated venture, ‘Harry Potter: Wizards Unite‘, is set for release in the near future.

The Bright Future for AR

As this technology develops, the amount of AR capable smartphones is set to skyrocket. As of 2017 there were only a reported 474 million smartphones capable of running the Apple and Google’s versions of AR. This number is estimated to jump up to 3.7 billion by 2020 however. Add to this the fact Apple CEO Tim Cook makes no secret of the potential he sees in AR stating it has the ability to, ‘amplify human performance.’ Though the fact that both Apple and Google want in on the space, to date Niantic is doing just fine.