Ingress, the godfather of location based-AR games developed by Pokémon GO creator Niantic Labs, is getting a new lease on life via Ingress Prime, a reboot of the game built on the Niantic Real World Platform.
After teasing the reboot late last year, Niantic launched the new game on Monday on the App Store and Google Play. The premise remains the same — "hack" portals at real-world locations to claim territory for your chosen faction — but the game receives some user interface improvements. Also, Niantic is deepening players' immersion into the game's narrative outside of the app with an interactive hub and a web series, "The Dunraven Project."
But the biggest change comes under the hood, as Ingress Prime is the first app expressly "built" on the Niantic Real World Platform, with another implementation, the Adventure Sync background step tracking feature for Pokémon GO, coming soon.
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"Ingress Prime is built on Niantic's Real World Platform and serves as a key driver for innovation around gameplay and technologies for all Niantic products," said John Hanke, founder and CEO of Niantic, in a statement. "Since its original release in November 2012, Ingress and its passionate and diverse user community have been an inspiration for the team to create new and innovative ways for players to work together both in-game and in the real world."
The Real World Platform is Niantic's entry into the AR Cloud market. The computer vision-based platform uses just a smartphone camera to enable multiplayer experiences and persistent content as well as real-world occlusion. The result is more realistic AR content and immersive experiences that maintain shared context with others.
On the surface, there does not appear to be any AR Cloud features — multiplayer, persistence, or occlusion — built into the game. The AR of this game, as it was before, is purely in the geocached nature of its gameplay, with virtual content accessible (but not viewable) at real-world locations.
However, the app asks for permissions to access the device's location as well as its camera. In previous reports previewing the Real World Platform, Niantic CEO John Hanke has disclosed that the virtual maps of the platform are built through crowdsourced data captured in the background by smartphone cameras as players play Niantic's location-based games.
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"The Niantic Real World Platform advances the way computers see the world, moving from a model centered around roads and cars to a world centered around people, said Hanke in a blog post announcing the Niantic Real World Platform. "Modeling this people-focused world of parks, trails, sidewalks, and other publicly accessible spaces requires significant computation. The technology must be able to resolve minute details, to specifically digitize these places, and to model them in an interactive 3D space that a computer can quickly and easily read."
If the camera isn't being used to display AR content in the camera view, then, by process of elimination, it appears the app is supplying data for Niantic's AR Cloud mapping. Moreover, the game's primary objective, portals, are located in parks and other public spaces that Niantic seeks to model for the Real World Platform. We've asked Niantic to confirm these details, and we'll update this post as we receive word back.
Nonetheless, the launch of Ingress Prime is a huge milestone for the Niantic Real World Platform, putting it out into a live app ahead of competing AR Cloud platforms from 6D.ai and Ubiquity6 (who, like Niantic, is backed financially by Google). Even though the game doesn't take advantage of the AR features now, using the platform as its foundation will enable Niantic to integrate those features in the future (or in other games) while players contribute to the platform's digital mapping.
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