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Niantic is building AR maps with help from 'Pokémon Go' players

It wants to move beyond gaming.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
May 9, 2018
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Reuters/Kim Kyung-Hoon

Niantic may have split from Google years ago, but there's a little bit of Google culture left -- namely, the Maps part. The developer told Reuters that it's planning to create 3D augmented reality maps with the help of Pokémon Go players' cameras. Gamers would help map public spaces (such as parks and plazas) so that the AR experience could extend to the entire environment, not just characters. And crucially, these wouldn't be limited to Niantic's own games -- the company hopes to offer these AR maps to third-party developers.

The strategy is relatively new in the AR world, where you're more likely to see companies scanning environments with dedicated equipment. Google only just previewed an augmented reality navigation feature). However, Niantic would be following a familiar strategy of turning a game's location info into a business model -- Foursquare, for example, provides its business check-in data to third parties.

The company didn't say when the mapping would start, or whether it would include info from the upcoming Harry Potter AR game. Any use of the technology may depend on Niantic assuring users that it won't collect private info, though. While it'd be relatively easy to anonymize data collection, there are bound to be people worried that they'll inadvertently create public AR maps of their homes.

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