Niantic Hints At Smart Glasses Technology

| March 30, 2021
Niantic Hints At Smart Glasses Technology
Pokémon GO developer Niantic has been teasing the possibility of adding AR or VR to the game, possibly with its own brand of hardware.

Niantic CEO John Hanke tweeted a photo of glasses branded with the company’s name today. With clear lenses, the device appears to be a set of smart glasses, including a speaker near the hinge. There also appears to be a strap on the outside of the device, however, like ski goggle straps found on many headsets.

The device is reminiscent of other smart glasses on the market now, like the Razer Anzu, whose frame offers touch-input sensors and a built-in microphone/speaker combo. In order to fully incorporate the game experience into players’ headgear, however, a screen or display like those on Vuzix Blade Upgraded glasses, which project a HUD display onto the right lens.

Earlier this month, Niantic showed off a concept demo for how Pokémon GO could work with Microsoft’s HoloLens 2 mixed reality device, powered by Microsoft Mesh. While wearing the expensive apparatus, Hanke interacted with other players both in person and remote, and offered his Pikachu a snack by using his hand as a menu. The demo ended with a tease at PvP battling through the augmented lenses, but neither fighting nor capturing monsters was displayed in any capacity.

Moving to dedicated hardware is a natural evolution for the Niantic Real World Platform, in many ways. The platform’s models of the real world are refined through user input in programs like Pokemon GO and Ingress, where high-level players can submit landmarks to be used as PokéStops, and occlusion was recently added to their AR simulations—allowing virtual creatures to respond to context and disappear behind obstructions. Beaming these ever-evolving projections directly to the user’s face without using a phone screen as a middleman would be one big step toward full immersion.

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Hanke’s tease today quickly caught the notice of Razer CEO Min-Liang Tan, who tweeted that it “would be fun to do a collab!” A theoretical partnership between the two companies could offer more affordable solutions for players than the HoloLens 2—Razer’s Anzu glasses retail for $269.99 CAD, while Microsoft’s device is a hefty $4749.

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