Niantic buys a 3D mapping startup to enable 'planet-scale' AR

6D.ai could lead to advanced 'Pokémon Go' and 'Harry Potter' experiences.

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AP Photo/Michael Liedtke
AP Photo/Michael Liedtke

As much as Niantic might be focused on making its location-based games more playable at home, it's also thinking about its future. The developer has bought 3D mapping startup 6D.ai to help it develop "planet-scale" augmented reality. The relative newcomer's work on 3D environment reconstruction and persistent AR objects promises more sophisticated experiences than you're used to in the past. Niantic teased the prospect of seeing creature habitats in Pokémon Go, or dragons landing on buildings.

The 6D.ai team saw the buyout as a logical fit. Niantic knows "better than anyone" about this kind of AR, according to 6D chief Matt Miesnieks, and it has a giant audience. There "couldn't be a better team" for the startup to join, he said.

This won't be great news for 6D's existing developers when the company is ramping down its existing toolset over 30 days. It wants teams to focus on Niantic's Real World Platform instead. Still, this could easily represent a big step forward for AR gaming by bringing advanced effects to a large audience.

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