Niantic acquires augmented reality startup as it looks to build powerful rival to Apple’s ARKit

Niantic, the studio behind Pokémon GO, announced today that it has acquired augmented reality startup 6D.ai. As TechCrunch reports, this San Francisco-based startup had focused on creating technology that would allow smartphones to quickly detect 3D layouts.

It’s easy to see how Niantic can use the 6D.ai technology in its suite of mobile games, including Pokémon GO. Over the next month, Niantic will shut down 6D.ai’s existing developer tools and instead work to integrate the technology with the Niantic Real World Platform.

As TechCrunch emphasizes in its report, Niantic’s goals extend far beyond Pokémon GO. The company hopes to create a developer platform that other applications can use, much like similar efforts by Facebook and Apple’s ARKit framework — hence the implementation of 6D.ai technology into the Real World platform.

Niantic is a consumer games company and 6D.ai was primarily working with enterprise clients. While Niantic will be shutting down 6D.ai’s existing developer tools over the next month, a spokesperson tells TechCrunch that the tech will soon be integrated with the company’s Niantic Real World Platform to help developers “build AR experiences for all types of consumer and business applications, including enterprise.”

6D.ai had touted itself as a powerful way to create real 3D models of the world using smartphone cameras. The goal was to crowdsource data from users to create a three-dimensional model, as TechCrunch wrote in 2018:

What’s more interesting is that all of this can be done in the background so that while users are playing an AR game with a passive camera feed — something similar to Pokémon GO — they could also be gathering rich 3D data of the environments that they’re navigating.

This is a notable acquisition for Niantic, which so far has perhaps had the most commercial success with augmented reality. Apple is doubling down on its AR efforts, and recently introduced a new iPad Prow with a LiDAR Scanner and a new version of ARKit to take advantage of that hardware.

9to5Mac has also reported that Apple is developing a new AR app codenamed “Gobi” for iOS 14. This app will allow users to get more information about the world around them by using an augmented reality experience on their iPhone or iPad.

TechCrunch’s full story on the acquisition is well worth a read and can be found here.

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