The potential of augmented reality (AR) is not lost on Niantic, especially after the runaway success of Pokémon Go. Now, as the game maker gears up for its next big release – Harry Potter: Wizards Unite – later this year, it is asking fans to help fuel its ambitions by mapping the Earth in 3D and converting the entire world into a virtual game board.
In a recent interview with Reuters, Niantic CEO John Hanke revealed that mapping will start with public spaces like parks and plazas, but refused to specify a timeline or divulge how exactly AR maps would fit into the game maker’s roadmap. But, it is safe to assume that Hanke – who played a key role in the public release of Google Earth and Google Maps in 2005 – wants to make the AR experience of Niantic’s future games much more immersive.
In February this year, the game maker acquired AR startup Escher Reality to strengthen its hold in building backend services for cross-platform mobile AR – a functionality that both Google’s ARCore and Apple’s ARKit lack.
The crowdsourced 3D AR maps that Niantic hopes to build will lead to a “new kind of social activity,” Hanke believes. Perhaps, in the future, players would be able to virtually erect new structures in a setting using these AR maps as the base and share that view with other players. Or maybe Hanke has something even cooler up his sleeve – only time will tell.
But what is certain is that Niantic wants to make AR maps a billion-dollar business by allowing third-party developers to utilize them. Now to wait and see how the company plans to handle data privacy issues.