Niantic is Bringing Its Large-scale AR Positioning System to WebAR Too


This week Niantic announced Lightship VPS, a system designed to make possible accurate localization of AR devices at a large scale to enable location-based AR content that can also be persistent and multi-user. While the first implementation of the system will need to be baked into individual apps, the company says it’s bringing the tech to WebAR too.

With the launch of Lightship VPS (visual positioning system), Niantic is staking its claim in the AR space by offering up an underlying map on which developers can build AR apps which are tied to real-world locations. Being able to localize AR apps to real-world locations means those apps can have persistent virtual content that always appears in the same location in the world, even for different users at the same time.

The system is built into Niantic’s Lightship ARDK, which is a set of tools (including VPS) that developers can use to build AR apps. For the time being, VPS can be added to apps that users will download onto their phone, but Niantic says it also plans to make a version of VPS that will work from a smartphone’s web browser. While it’s not ready just yet, the company showed some live demos of the browser-based VPS in action this week.

WebAR is a foundation of technologies that allow AR experiences to run directly from a smartphone’s web browser. Building AR into the web means developers can deploy AR experiences to users that are easy to share and don’t have the friction of going to an app store to download a dedicated app (you can check out an example of a WebAR experience here).

Image courtesy Niantic

Thanks to Niantic’s recent acquisition of WebAR specialist 8th Wall, the company is now poised to make VPS compatible with 8th Wall’s WebAR tools, bringing the same large-scale AR positioning capabilities to web developers. Though it showed off the first demos this week, the company hasn’t said when the WebAR version of VPS will become available.

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. See here for more information.

Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Anonymous

    More garbage apps in the future to clog up public spaces thanks to some VR-dissing narcissists.

  • Engorged

    Woow this looks amazing! I was really curious if they will be able to handle object occlusion and it looks so good!

  • Considering the big potential of WebAR, this is incredibly cool