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Niantic shows the future of AR games

The trailer was released at the same time as several announcements made at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit. 

Pokémon Go developer Niantic has unveiled its new tech demo showing what it thinks could be the future of augmented reality gaming. The trailer, which appears to depict “real-life headset gameplay,” shows several players wearing AR glasses interacting with shared virtual objects, including game elements and virtual signage, while away from home. A couple of players appear to be interacting with the game using handheld motion controllers, but there is no indication that anyone needs to directly use a smartphone to play the game.

The trailer was released at the same time as several announcements made at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Summit. These include a new processor from Qualcomm, a new headset reference design from Niantic, and software integration between the two companies’ augmented reality platforms. The companies have been collaborating in the field of AR for a long time, starting at least in 2019.

The new chip is Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1. Qualcomm isn’t new to making chips designed for virtual reality headsets, but AR2 Gen 1 is the first chip designed specifically for augmented reality glasses. That means the focus is on making the chip small and power efficient: Qualcomm claims its PCB is 40% smaller than that used in the latest pair of VR-focused XR2 Gen 1 reference augmented reality glasses . . At the same time, AR2 Gen 1 consumes less than 1W of power.

Other improvements include 2.5 times better AI performance with a 50% reduction in power consumption compared to XR2 Gen 1. However, XR2 Gen 1 is not Qualcomm’s highest performing virtual reality chip right now, it has been replaced by XR2 Plus Gen 1, which works in Meta* Quest Pro. AR2 Gen 1 is designed to share the computing load between a pair of different processors inside the glasses themselves, as well as a PC or smartphone connected wirelessly. Qualcomm says the processor supports the new Wi-Fi 7 standard for connectivity and claims latency between the glasses and the host device can be as low as 2ms.

While Qualcomm has its own reference AR headset design for its new chip, the Snapdragon AR2 Gen 1 also works in the new Niantic Outdoor AR Headset. The new headset can be seen in use alongside the older headsets in the new Niantic trailer. Qualcomm says other manufacturers want to use the new chip, including Lenovo, LG, Nreal, Oppo, TCL and Xiaomi.

Finally, there is news that Niantic’s Lightship Visual Positioning System (VPS) , the software platform that forms the basis of its world-famous augmented reality games such as Pokémon Go, will be integrated with Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Spaces VR developer platform from next year. and AR. Lightship VPS is what allows one player to place virtual items in Niantic games and they will remain persistent for other players. Although currently only available on mobile phones, integration with Snapdragon Spaces will allow Lightship VPS to run on headsets, Niantic’s Mariam Sabour confirmed on stage.