Today there are many different ideas of what the metaverse is, the immersive technology that promises to be the new generation of the Internet, and above all what it will end up being. With so many concepts and interests involved, it’s hard to get clear, don’t you think?
I will summarize it for you: currently there are 2 large currents of companies that are betting on the metaverse. And there are 2 different ideas behind it.
On one side is Meta, the matrix of Facebookat the head of companies that seek to build a metaverse that, despite being connected to the real world, allows people to use virtual or mixed reality glasses –such as the Meta Quest Pro– to interact through avatars.
And on the other hand, there are other companies that, aware of the bump that Meta has experienced in 2022, are betting on a more practical view of the metaverselinked to technologies that already exist and not to the vision they have for the future.
Within this second category is niantic, American company best known for being the developer of the mobile augmented reality video game Pokémon GO. This game exceeded 6,000 million dollars in revenue in 2022according to SensorTower, although its creator looks far beyond the gaming.
This is how he explained it to Business Insider Spain his Head of Augmented Reality and Mapping operations, Kit Gilbert.
“A metaverse of the real world instead of confusing the public”
Niantic wants to put land in the middle with respect to Meta’s metaverse proposal, which not even those responsible for technology companies want to use, as happens to Tim Cook, CEO of Apple.
“Our approach is to develop a metaverse of the real world instead of confusing the public“, as explained by the Niantic directive.
Thus, Niantic embraces the word metaverse but directs it to the field in which it is strongest: the augmented realitywhich basically consists of adding virtual elements to the world around us, helped, for example, by the mobile camera.
“In fact we are simply trying to augment the physical environment and make what is around you, which is already beautiful, already fascinating or exciting, a little more magical,” summarizes Gilbert.
This is not what already happens in existing Niantic products such as Pokémon GO, originally launched in 2016, but also the company plans to expand it to more sectors through initiatives such as Lightship VPS. With this visual positioning system, so far it has mapped more than 100,000 locations in 60 cities.
These kinds of technologies are important to Niantic’s real-world idea of the metaverse, as it allows you to locate items with a centimeter precision, instead of a margin of tens of meters as is the case today with GPS positioning.
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“In the next 6 months, we will focus on the developer experience and making it easier for them to develop and deploy content at scale,” predicts Gilbert.
The main application outside of video games that Niantic technology has been given so far is advertising, through special actions by brands like Coca-Cola that have already opted for augmented reality to do different marketing.
Despite this, the American company does not believe that the current bad state of investment in advertising, which began with political and economic uncertainty at the beginning of 2022, is a problem for its future.
“We are gaining business, as well as the technology platform business. So we are not as dependent on average ad revenuewhich is why some companies have suffered,” says Gilbert, referring to the drop in advertising revenue from Meta, for example.
Mobile-based metaverse will be able to port to viewers
Niantic is aware that mixed reality headsets have a bright future ahead of them, but all of their current technology is based on the smartphone. How is this bet explained?
“Riflescopes will really take off when the first devices come along that can actually be used outdoors for longer periods of time,” Gilbert predicts.
Microsoft HoloLens 2 or Meta Quest Pro they have taken a big step forward in terms of functionality and form factor, and Apple is expected to introduce its own model of immersive glasses in 2023.
Niantic believes that “the form factor needs to be much closer to regular glasses“, with features such as transparent lenses, lighter weight, battery life to work for several hours and not require any physical contact. An idea that is still far on the horizon.
But at the same time, the American company wants to convince software developers that, when the era of viewers arrives, they will be prepared to port their experiences from mobile phones.
“Our approach is to create a technology and delivery mechanism that works well on mobile, but to do it in a way that developers have the confidence that what they are developing with Lightship today is going to be able to be very easily ported to viewers in the futureGilbert adds.