Niantic wants to build AR maps with data from Pokemon Go players

Pokemon Go was a mobile gaming phenom when it was released in 2016.                  Sean Hollister  CNET

Niantic CEO John Hanke said that Pokémon GO players will help create a 3D map of the world that can be used to enhance the game and assist in the development of new augmented reality apps ... But how to efficiently collect and process data for it has been a vexing problem that Alphabet Inc's Google, Apple Inc and dozens of startups also have been trying to solve.

Niantic told Reuters that the key to making this all happen is through player's smartphone cameras.

Google earlier this week revealed that Google Maps users in some markets will be able to receive AR directions on their phones. Hanke told Reuters the company will start mapping public spaces like parks and plazas, but he didn't say when it would start.

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AR maps would enrich the "new kind of social activity" Niantic has fostered, Hanke said.

While the "Pokémon Go" app can digitally place a Pikachu on a playground, having an AR map as a foundation would allow someone to build new virtual structures and share them with other players. Players could use their phones to send data back to the company so it can map AR data on top of real-world items.

It appears to be more than a side project. According to the interview, Niantic is planning to build something that they're describing as an AR Map, a concept they describe as crucial to advanced augmented reality maps.

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