Meet Lightship Maps: A new building block for real-world AR
Develop with Lightship Maps for easy-to-use, customizable basemaps optimized for AR.

Today, we’re excited to introduce Niantic Lightship Maps for Unity, a new basemap for building location-based AR.

At Niantic, we know that maps on their own are a powerful tool for discovery that encourage users to connect with others, explore new worlds, and more. When combined with AR, maps become the foundation for new worlds and captivating adventures, helping users discover location-based AR experiences.

Lightship Maps for Unity, now in public beta, is a new SDK that provides you with seamless and customizable mapping solutions built specifically for creating location-based AR applications.

Maps built specifically for augmented reality

With Lightship Maps, you now have access to the same technology that Niantic uses to power our most popular real-world games.

Unlike other mapping providers who started by building maps for automotive or data visualization, Maps is purpose built and fine-tuned for AR use cases. To ensure optimal performance, Maps prioritizes key features required for AR like vector-based maps for smooth zooming and panning around the map, and caching for availability in areas with low connectivity. It also leverages the Unity Job System to enhance your experience building a map.

Skatrix's application sets the foundation of their location-based AR experience with Lightship Maps

As an integral part of the Lightship platform, this release gives you a unified and hassle-free solution for building exceptional location-based AR applications. Maps tightly integrates with the Lightship ARDK making it easier to display and guide users to location-based experiences like those built with Lightship VPS, without needing to manage an additional external service.

What drew me to skateboarding … was it was more of a form of expression than any sport … what some people consider trespassing, we consider as art. It’s called street skating for a reason, because the world around us becomes an endless well where we adapt our tricks to fit the urban terrain in new and unending ways.

For decades, skaters have found terrains all over the world where they did tricks to make that spot iconic. Now, Niantic has been so cool to share Lightship Maps in the Lightship platform, giving us the only tech in existence that enables us to bring our world and form of expression to life so we can share with the community through augmented reality. This way you can take it further so we all rise together.”

Rodney Mullen, Godfather of Skateboarding, Co-Founder of Skatrix

Immersive experiences grounded in location

Maps are more than just flat, 2D tiles. Out-of-the-box, you can access the geometry and semantics of geographic features, enabling the creation of interactive, physics-based experiences without the need for external data imports. With this data, immerse your users in the AR world where objects and characters react naturally to their surroundings. Witness objects bouncing off buildings or balls sinking into water, bringing a profound sense of realism to your AR experiences.

To further ground an experience in the real world, you can procedurally generate content based on the intrinsic features of the map itself. For example, you now have the tools to quickly create a resource gathering experience where a park offers up resources and a water feature would spawn fish.

Easily customized to make your own

With Maps, take full control over the visual aesthetics of your maps. Whether you prefer starting with one of our 19 preconfigured styles or diving deep into customization, you can tailor the look to align perfectly with your style and create a truly branded experience.

Take it one step further by importing external data sources like CSVs to populate the map with any information that enhances your AR application. Add your own shaders or overlays to fine-tune the map according to your specific needs and deliver a truly unique and captivating user experience.

Start building with Lightship Maps in minutes

Lightship Maps is now available in public beta. To get started, create a Lightship account or sign in to download the Lightship Maps SDK.

Need more details? View our documentation or use the sample projects included in the download to see Maps in a Unity scene in just a few clicks. In minutes, you’ll be on your way to customizing your new location-based experience.

Published May 25, 2023
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