pokemon go
Pokemon Go players will help Niantic build AR maps. REUTERS/Mariana Bazo

Niantic, the company behind “Pokémon Go,” has revealed that it wants players to help it build an augmented reality map. Niantic plans on letting third-party developers use the AR map for their own apps.

Niantic believes that building an AR map is crucial in advancing augmented reality apps. “We want players to build out the game board they want to play on,” Niantic CEO John Hanke told Reuters. Hanke was once the vice president of product management for Google’s Geo division and he oversaw the development of Google Earth and Google Maps back in 2005. Hanke started Niantic within Google in 2010. The company split from Google in 2015.

“Pokémon Go” allows users to project virtual Pokémon characters in the real world when they play the game. The technology is already impressive, but having an AR map could improve it even further. For example, an app could produce an AR version of a specific location and it could allow users to create virtual structures. Hanke also believes that AR maps could enrich the “new kind of social activity” that Niantic is encouraging from their players.

Hanke says that it plans to start building AR maps with public spaces, like parks and plazas. Unfortunately, the CEO declined to provide a timeline and he did not disclose if AR maps would make its way to “Pokémon Go” or any of its other games. Niantic is also developing “Harry Potter: Wizards Unite,” another augmented reality game that’s expected to be released later this year for iOS and Android devices. “Pokémon Go” has already been downloaded 800 million times and Niantic has the opportunity to build AR maps quickly, as pointed out by 9To5Mac.

Niantic acquired Escher Reality earlier this year and it may have been part of the company’s plan to kickstart its effort to build AR maps. Niantic’s plan to build AR maps isn’t just for gaming either as the company plans on letting third-party developers use the technology. Industry executives believe that it could become a multibillion-dollar business.

Meanwhile, Google is also bringing augmented reality to Google Maps. During the company’s I/O 2018 conference, the company revealed that Google Maps will soon provide users with AR directions on their smartphones. Google’s technology mixes its traditional Street View interface with the live camera view on the user’s smartphone. The feature estimates the user’s location and orientation based on visual landmarks. Google calls this new feature visual positioning system (VPS).