Why Niantic’s Multiplayer AR Reveal is a Huge Deal for Developers
There’s a point in almost every augmented reality conversation where the discussion eventually shifts to Pokémon Go, the 2016 supernova that became an instant hit with both iPhone and Android users, racking up nearly 800-million downloads.
Pokémon Go was AR’s first smash hit and the game that essentially explained augmented reality to the mass consumer market. However, in the two years since the Pokémon release, the AR market has yet to identify its next big time property, which brings added excitement to the SIGGRAPH computer graphics conference, slated for August 12-16 in Vancouver.
It is over that weekend that Niantic, the company behind Pokémon Go, will unveil its foray into multiplayer AR games with Neon and Tonehenge, a pair of titles that are primed to lead the next evolution of augmented reality, connecting players, socially, in real time.
“We’ve already seen Apple make native AR updates to their forthcoming iOS 12, and Snap is really making a big push toward social-centric gaming, but the new games from Niantic are a huge piece of the augmented reality equation,” offers Ryan Isbell, CEO of Possible Reality. “Once iPhones can natively see AR features, Apple will certainly unveil some new functionality, and Snap has a great vision of further incorporating AR into the social experience, but games like Neon and Tonehenge not only achieve true multiplayer AR functionality, but they also demonstrate how to apply AR into our lives.”
Isbell, who is currently focused on achieving 3-D avatars with true digital likeness with the Possible Reality INTARACT app, understands how pivotal the new Niantic products can be for the AR market.
Imagining titles like Pokémon Go and gaming environments ranging from sports and RPGs, to first person shooters and zombie invasions, Isbell aims to take multiplayer AR gaming further by allowing players to create personalized, customizable characters. The proposition of a new breakout AR hit game excites the Los Angeles-based entrepreneur and developer.
“Right now it’s really crucial for a new AR game to achieve some kind of enormous success. The public has been hearing so much about augmented reality and how this technology can improve digital, gaming, and social experiences, even shopping, but what the masses really need is visible proof,” explains Isbell. “If games like these are successful and achieve similar popularity as Pokémon Go, pretty soon, many more people will have a better grasp of how augmented reality works and how it can factor into daily application.”
Examining a pair of teaser videos released by Niantic, the basic AR multiplayer functionality clearly engages a group competition. Neon, in particular, is a straightforward shooting game that easily demonstrates the principles of augmented reality to all users. The treasure hunt-themed Tonehenge is considerably more in depth, requiring players to simultaneously drag and drop items while performing a list of AR-enhanced tasks. It’s an AR game for early adopters.
But how does this technology help startups like Possible Reality? And how can INTARACT improve on existing AR offerings?
For starters, every success that any company has with an AR product results in a net positive for other augmented reality tech companies.
Consider, if Neon becomes the next Pokémon Go, investors will be quick to identify, and fund, similarly positioned companies producing AR content. There’s already been major investment into augmented reality technology, but with every pending success and possibility comes a new set of doors to open and codes to crack. It’s as if the market and the technology are growing, simultaneously, and offering insights in real time.
“What we’re seeing with a lot of emerging AR tech is a bit of a chicken and egg thing,” adds Isbell. “We know a wide range of functionality and applications for augmented reality, but with every new angle and piece of consumer insight, we’re able to make immediate improvements and find new uses for AR.”
And one place where Isbell sees significant room to grow is in the adoption of personalized avatars in augmented reality games. It’s a niche that Possible Reality aims to own, thanks in large part to a proprietary algorithm that allows users to create lifelike avatars in seconds, using a single two-dimensional photo.
What results is a customized character that can be played in gaming environments native to the INTARACT app, or embedded in third-party games, giving titles like Neon an added boost. There’s also the possibility that by embedding characters, geolocation games can eventually merge with remote systems, allowing users to play at home, or together, or some combination of both.
For now, the AR market awaits Niantic’s new releases and the next major plateau for the mass adoption of mobile augmented reality technology.
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