Introducing Lightship VPS
The Key to Building Real-World AR Experiences
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Today, we’re excited to introduce our latest development here at Niantic: Lightship VPS, the visual positioning system for our Lightship platform. With Lightship VPS, developers now have the power to localize their users and persist AR content with centimeter-level accuracy, in seconds.

Developers today want to build immersive AR experiences with content that is anchored to real-world locations. To do so, they have to first understand exactly where their users are.

Lightship VPS accurately determines the position and orientation of a user’s device at the moment they start an experience; the VPS service enables AR content to persist, meaning that the same location-based experience can be shared across different users and at different times. Lightship VPS is the feature developers have been waiting for: the key to building immersive AR experiences at real-world locations.

How Lightship VPS works

In order for Lightship VPS to determine the position and orientation of users, it utilizes a new kind of map — one built specifically for AR.

The world of mapping has changed drastically in the past 15 years. Much of this has been powered by maps built by cars, for cars. However at Niantic, we focus on maps for a world that exists beyond the reach of the road.

To construct this map, we collect scans – short video snippets of real-world locations – from developers, surveyors, and players. We then process these data to build our AR map of the world. Once a location is sufficiently scanned, we’re able to activate it on Lightship VPS, and it becomes available for developers to build real-world AR experiences.

Demonstration of scanning

End users can then head to these VPS-activated locations and quickly localize their devices and interact with persistent AR content. With only a single image frame from a user’s device, the Lightship VPS service swiftly and accurately determines its position and orientation.

Building a new kind of map

Building this new map of the world is one of the grand challenges of AR, but we’re not doing it alone - Niantic’s AR map is powered by scans of real-world locations from developers, surveyors, and players. For years, Niantic has invited dedicated players to join us in our pursuit of building an AR map of the world. Our community has contributed millions of locations, photos, and scans, essential data that make it possible to serve localization with Lightship VPS.

We are not solely relying on players and developers to realize this vision; we’re accelerating the growth of our mapping coverage with dedicated data collection from a global team of surveyors, furnishing our developers and players with a strong foundation to build upon.

Finally, we’ve learned that like our players, our developers too know many of the best places in the world for AR exploration and gameplay. Starting today, we’re inviting Lightship developers to expand the map with us by adding new locations that matter most to them.

Available in 30,000 locations globally and growing

Lightship VPS is available at over 30,000 locations globally today, with especially dense coverage in six cities: San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, London, and Tokyo.

VPS-activated locations are much more than single points on a map. They are comprised of multiple scans, creating localizable spaces that are roughly 10 meters in diameter. The accuracy of Lightship VPS is such that a device can be localized to within centimeters of its true location, enabling the persistence of intricately crafted, real-world AR experiences. Both the size and the quantity of these VPS-activated locations will increase over time; Lightship VPS will be available in over 100 global cities by the end of 2022.

The localizable area of a VPS-activated location is approximately 10 meters in diameter and will grow in size over time.

Get started with Lightship VPS

Lightship VPS is now available in public beta. To start building, register for a Lightship developer account and download our Lightship ARDK. Both the Lightship ARDK and VPS are built to work with iOS, Android, and Unity,

Not sure where to start? View our guides, templates, or documentation for more support.

Published May 23, 2022
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