Just two years ago, Niantic Labs helped make augmented reality (AR) a household word and experience when it launched Pokémon Go and sat back as millions of smartphone owners chased down virtual Pikachus and the like across the entire real world. It was AR, alright, in terms of virtual objects appearing in the real world through your smartphone viewfinder, but its reliance mainly on just GPS and triangulation meant the game wasn’t ever really seeing its environment, and Pikachus often appeared randomly in environments with little regard for their surroundings. That's pretty much still the case, but now Niantic is stepping up its game with computer vision. The Niantic Real World Platform will add real time 3D mapping of environments and object-, activity- and scene-recognition to future iterations of Pokémon Go—all of which must work seamlessly with no latency on smartphone devices, to boot. It’s a tall order, of course, but this proof-of-concept video that shows little Pikachu and Eevee weaving around people who are walking—rather than right through them—is promising. If Niantic can successfully transplant this truly location-aware capability at the scale of Pokémon Go, it will do more for AR’s mass adoption than the original game ever could have.
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