In the waning days of October, at the Innovation Tokyo 2018 conference, attendees got their hands on some of the new augmented reality experiences that Niantic is working on through its Real World Platform.
Among the experiences available to the 12,000 attendees who visited the "AR Playground with Niantic" exhibit was the Pokémon AR Garden, where players searched the Mori Gardens for Pokémon based on spatial audio cues rather than visual indicators and climbed the stairs of virtual gyms in VR with haptic feedback.
The spatial audio AR experience was made possible via open-ear directional headphones provided by Ambie. Players followed the sounds emitted by the virtual pocket monsters scattered throughout the space.
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"The open-ear headphones mixed the game audio with the natural sounds of Mori Garden, enhancing the beautiful ambiance of chirping birds and flowing water," said Niantic CEO John Hanke in a blog post. "In the end, the experience demonstrated how augmented audio reality can alter one's perception of public space without distracting from it."
The audio experience was also applied to the Ingress Sound Game, where players were directed by audio cues through a shopping complex while evading real life "security agents."
In addition, Niantic hosted a HoloLens experience based on Ingress. Visitors were able view a tabletop model of the Roppongi Hills neighborhood as Ingress Portals and Control Fields, marked by light from overhead projectors, pulsed and visual data overlays were displayed through the HoloLens.
Finally, attendees also got to play the Codename Neon AR multiplayer laser tag game that Niantic demoed to press as part of its Real World Platform unveiling earlier this year.
"While AR is still in its infancy, it was exciting to build these projects and to see consumers catch a brief glimpse of how the real world can be enhanced with this technology," said Hanke (who is also a member of the NR30 for 2018).
"While some are enamored with the idea of replacing humans with machines, or the notion of creating virtual worlds so realistic we may want to leave our own behind, we believe that the world around us and the people around us are more wonderful and exciting than anything that can be manufactured. It's our goal to use technology to bring out the best in the people and places we interact with and to nurture the appetite for exploration and community that exists in all of us."
With multiplayer support, persistent content, and real world occlusion coming soon by way of the Niantic Real World Platform, Niantic's teams appear ready to make good on that goal by introducing another layer of immersion to its existing lineup of location-based games.