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Future titans of the Metaverse: Part 9

Updated: Jan 29, 2023

In this ongoing series we explore the past, present and potential future of the largest players in the Metaverse. Today, we’re taking a look at American software development company Niantic.

Niantic started life as Niantic Labs in 2010 as an internal start-up within Google. Under Chief Executive Officer John Hanke, the company became an independent entity in October 2015 when Google restructured under Alphabet Inc. At the same time Niantic announced that Google, Nintendo, and The Pokémon Company would invest up to $30 million in Series-A funding to support the growth of the company. In November 2017, Niantic raised $200 million in Series B funding from multiple investors, led by American venture capital firm Spark Capital. In January 2019, it was reported that Niantic had raised an additional $245 million in a Series C fundraising round, led by US-based private equity investment firm Institutional Venture Partners, AXiomatic Gaming and Samsung Ventures.

As the CEO of an augmented reality (AR) software company it will come as little surprise that Hanke believes that the future of the Metaverse is in AR, rather than virtual reality (VR). Hanke laid this out in a 2021 blog post titled “The Metaverse is a Dystopian Nightmare. Let’s Build a Better Reality”, within which he rubbishes the idea of a Ready Player One-esque, persistent, hyper-realistic, immersive virtual world, in favour of augmented reality technology that enhance human interaction with and experience of the real-world.

Here at we believe the future of the Metaverse will be a combination of both augmented and virtual worlds, “the hyperconvergence of the physical and digital worlds”, where people will be able to set their virtual presence on a virtual-physical, or ‘virtical’, sliding scale from zero (completely present in the physical world) to 100 percent (completely present in the Metaverse). AR simply lies somewhere a long this ‘virtical’ scale.

While Niantic is best known for developing the augmented reality mobile games Ingress (or Ingress Prime) and Pokémon Go, the software development company has also been developing its own augmented reality (AR) headset designs in collaboration with American chip creator Qualcomm. Niantic are understood to have a multi-year deal with Qualcomm to promote consumer grade AR products, including indoor to outdoor products. Under this deal Niantic is responsible for the AR development package, map generation package and other software development kits (SDKs) that allow developers create AR applications.

Niantic recently took the stage at Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Summit, which ran from the 15th to the 17th of November, to show off latest outdoor AR glasses reference design – Niantic isn’t looking to bring its own glasses to market, but to provide other companies with a blueprint for their own headsets. According to Niantic’s Head of AR Headsets, Maryam Sabour, “the hardware reference design showcases the potential for outdoor-capable AR headsets that can orient themselves using the Niantic map and render information and virtual worlds on top of the physical world”, adding that “the reference design will continue to evolve”.

This partnership is a savvy move for Niantic as this AR glasses reference design will, like computer game consoles, provide a platform, and more importantly a marketplace, for the company to sell its AR applications in the future - the company has recently partnered with Nintendo to release a mobile AR game based on the popular Pikmin franchise.

Please leave a comment below! And check out our previous posts on Meta (formerly Facebook), Microsoft, Google, Apple, Tencent, Epic Games, Roblox, and Nvidia.

Courtesy of Niantic

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