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Niantic said the AR startup, founded in 2017 and spun out from Oxford University’s Active Vision Lab, is building tools and technologies that “solve fundamental AR problems”

Quick read

➨ Niantic acquired 6D.ai for an undisclosed sum
➨ 6D’s platform uses a standard built-in smartphone camera to build a real-time, 3D semantic, crowdsourced ‘map of the world’
➨ Niantic and 6D will ‘shift focus’ to helping developers build realistic AR applications through the Niantic Real World Platform

The story

6D.ai, the developer of a 3D mapping engine capable of delivering planet-scale AR experiences, has joined Pokémon Go creator Niantic.

Niantic acquired 6D, which partnered with Qualcomm and Nreal last year to develop a fully spatially mapped field-service application for Deutsche Telekom engineers working in the field, for an undisclosed sum.

6D’s platform uses a standard built-in smartphone camera to build a real-time, 3D semantic, crowdsourced ‘map of the world’, all in the background. Its 3D mesh allows developers to build world-scale apps where assets are persistent, responsive to occlusion, and synced between multiple users more efficiently.

6D’s platform uses a standard built-in smartphone camera to build a real-time, 3D semantic, crowdsourced ‘map of the world’
6D’s platform uses a standard built-in smartphone camera to build a real-time, 3D semantic, crowdsourced ‘map of the world’

Niantic said the AR startup, founded in 2017 and spun out from Oxford University’s Active Vision Lab, is building tools and technologies that “solve fundamental AR problems”, including 3D reconstruction and AR persistence, that are important aspects of its own products and services.

“For the people who play our games today, it means more beloved AR experiences to come, and for our developers, an innovative platform to bring their AR visions to life,” Niantic said, teasing the potential of 6D to deliver simultaneous multi-user MR experiences in Pokémon Go, as well as more immersive gaming experiences.

6D chief executive officer Matt Miesnieks believes that the combination is a major step for the AR industry. He said: “Within just a few years, we were able to build a platform that served up 3D persistent maps to thousands of developers and some of today’s Fortune 500 companies, creating a digital understanding of the world with just a smartphone camera.”

“Now joining Niantic will provide us more reach, strengthen our resources, and bring together some of the best minds in both AR software development and research. The combination of our teams is a major step for the AR industry as we get even closer toward building the 3D map of the world.”

6D has benefited from a strong developer following since its launch in 2017, which Miesnieks credits with helping the startup’s technology to “come to life”. He said that its current developer tools will be wound down over the next 30 days, but promised to “shift focus to how we can help developers build realistic AR applications through the Niantic Real World Platform”.

Niantic provided an update on the platform in November 2019, revealing how integral user and developer support are to its evolution.

Through the Niantic Wayfarer programme, players can submit new locations, with photos, titles and further information, to collaboratively build a gameboard for all users to enjoy. At the time of the update, more than 9.4 million user submitted locations had been added to the Niantic Real World Platform, with an average of more than one million additional ‘Wayspot’—or local landmark—nominations per week.

Niantic has also introduced a means for small and medium-sized businesses to add sponsored locations to its games.

For developers, Niantic has opened up its platform to encourage the creation of AR experiences. It is running the Niantic Beyond Reality Developer Contest and has introduced a creator programme and established a fund that will take AR projects from early prototype to complete commercial experience.

Images: Niantic
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