The creators of the smartphone game Pokémon Go are launching their own social network for users of their apps. With “Campfire” (campfire), players can, among other things, display their position on the map and make appointments for events, the developer company Niantic announced on Tuesday. While the service is initially available for games developed by Niantic, developers who set up their apps on Niantic’s technology platform will also benefit later.
Launched in 2016, Pokémon Go, in which players use their smartphones to chase animated monsters, fueled the boom in apps that integrate on-screen digital content with real-world environments. This is referred to as “augmented reality” (AR).
Niantic CEO John Hanke sees the technology as an alternative to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s concept of a virtual “metaverse” world. “We want to use technology to add some magic to the world,” Hanke said Tuesday. “We don’t want to get in the way of that, the world is a pretty cool place.” Hanke is hoping for AR glasses that display digital content directly in the user’s field of vision.
Niantic is expanding its in-house AR technology with the ability to determine the position of a user in a location down to the centimeter. This is made possible by scans of the surroundings and 3D models, so that the camera can recognize where the smartphone is at the moment. The technology should be used to adapt superimposed digital objects more precisely to their surroundings and to interact with them. Virtual objects can also be displayed in exactly the same place in apps for multiple users. The feature is initially available in locations in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, London and Tokyo and is expected to expand to more than 100 cities worldwide by the end of the year.