In May, we launched the Lightship Visual Positioning System (VPS), enabling developers to build immersive AR experiences in real-world locations with centimeter-level accuracy. This fall, we journeyed worldwide on our Lightship VPS World Tour to showcase the power of Lightship VPS and empower developers to build the real-world metaverse with hands-on support from the Niantic Lightship team.
Our tour stops included London, Seattle, New York, and Los Angeles. In each city, we hosted an exclusive three-day event where developers engaged with the Lightship product, attended hands-on training and participated in a buildathon challenge to create an experience with Lightship VPS.
Developers then had the opportunity to submit their builds for judging, with winners receiving cash prizes, exclusive meetings with our developer relations and partner engineering teams, a seat in the Circuit Stream XR development course, and of course, bragging rights!
First stop, London!
London was the first stop on our Lightship VPS World Tour, and the developers came ready for a challenge. With over 30 developers in attendance throughout the event, the submissions we received were amazing, but one clear winner rose to the top: Doty’s Jam Sessions by Wonderment by Design.
Doty’s Jam Sessions connects people via the universal language of sound through a location-based spatial audio experience. Using VPS, Doty’s Jam Sessions creates and loads persistent location-based jam sessions, connecting the sound to a physical space in the world. In the demo, Wonderment by Design constructs a short melody loop in the world around you, saves a jam session for a later time, and loads the sound at the exact place it was before.
“We had an amazing time meeting lots of talented and creative people this weekend,” said Sander Sneek from the Wonderment by Design Team.
The camaraderie of the weekend was best illustrated by what the Wonderment team decided to do with the most sought-after prize, the Circuit Stream cohort seats. After receiving their first place prize, Wonderment collectively chose to pass along their cohort seat to the second place team, Yaaaas Queen, who Wonderment felt could better use the course to continue their learning journey. Once Yaaaas Queen heard the news, they hugged each other with excitement!
Once the weekend wrapped, the London Devs wanted to keep the momentum of connecting, networking, and building going. They created their own Discord server to continue building incredible AR experiences together!
Check out all of the amazing submissions from our London event here.
Connecting with developers in Seattle
Next up, Seattle! At our second stop in Seattle, developers were eager to learn how to build with VPS, to collaborate, and to share ideas with one another. Chris, one of the participants in the Seattle challenge, summed up the experience well saying,
“Participating in the Lightship VPS Seattle buildathon was a whirlwind of learning, creativity, and building. For me, the best part was testing the experience at the Wayspot and seeing all the other teams doing the same while laughing and learning together and sharing tips and tricks as each team discovered something new testing different parts of the SDK.”
There were some incredible submissions in Seattle that our panel of judges had to think through critically, but in the end, the winner of the Seattle buildathon was yeeDM by the yeeDM team. YeeDM elevates the music festival experience by allowing people to preview artists, navigate stages, and stay in the loop with friends and their favorite acts using VPS.
See all of the fantastic demos from our Seattle developers here.
Building unique AR experiences in NYC
Brooklyn’s official motto, displayed on the Borough seal and flag, is Eendraght Maeckt Maght, which translates from early modern Dutch as “Unity makes strength.” During our stop in New York, developers and creators alike united to build incredible AR experiences.
For the first time, developers at this stop could choose to build with either Lightship VPS for Unity or the recently released Lightship VPS for Web. Over 40 devs and creators attended, submitting ten incredible projects, but there could only be two winners: one selected from those building with ARDK and one for those building with 8th Wall.
The winner of the ARDK grand prize was the Underground Safehouse experience by team Underground ARDK. The experience allowed users to see what an Underground Railroad safehouse might have looked like, using 3D assets based on historical artifacts associated with the Underground Railroad.
Fashion ForevAR by AAA took home the 8th Wall grand prize for the team’s AR experience, which impressed judges with its creative and robust use of VPS. This project allows users to immerse themselves in an AR fashion show, and audience members can even engage with the models by sharing emoji reactions that everyone sees in the experience.
Find all of the submissions from our New York stop here.
Meeting inspiring developers and creators in LA
“Los Angeles is steadily becoming the augmented reality capital of the world,” said Kenneth To, Marketing Manager at Foundry Six. As one of the judges at our LA stop, he was right because our twelve judges had their work cut out for them trying to declare a winner from the impressive projects created during our final stop in Los Angeles.
Like the other stops, participants in LA spent time increasing their skills and knowledge in ARDK and 8th Wall by attending workshops throughout the weekend. Attendees then formed teams based on their ideas and skills to create immersive AR experiences with Lightship VPS.
“We had a blast meeting all the amazing AR creators building on Lightship VPS at the World Tour event in LA. It’s been incredible to create unique experiences around SoCal for people to discover. VPS is a transformative opportunity for us to share our love of immersive volumetrically captured performances with the world,” said David Gordan, of Team Rocket.
At the end of the weekend, teams submitted their projects to the judges to select the winning team. Team Bugfoot, composed of Ryan Whearty and Bill Wang, took home the ARDK grand prize for their escape room experience.
This was an exciting and surprising win for the team because, as Ryan explained, “I went only expecting to learn a few things and get some free pizza.” In fact, Ryan didn’t even plan on joining the buildathon at first but changed his mind once he met his teammate Bill Wang during the opening mixer. As a team, they inspired each other and held each other accountable to push through and create their build. Team Bugfoot created an escape room style game using VPS where the user searches for clues in their environment to find a piece of cheese and feed it to a mouse. Bugfoot’s experience won because of the game’s ability to get users outside to explore and engage with their environment.
The 8th Wall grand prize went to Piano Portal by XRNerd. Piano Portal’s use of VPS to deliver a bespoke location-based experience that tells the story of a piano donated to Emerson College by American composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch impressed the judges.
Explore all the incredible submissions from our LA world tour stop here.
Crowning the Cheeseball Champ
Though not strictly AR related, one of the highlights of each tour stop was the lively and competitive Cheeseball Tournament. In each city, both developers and Niantic team members competed in separate brackets to see who could catch a flying cheeseball thrown from about seven feet away. The winners of each bracket won a Golden Cheeseball Trophy and the coveted title of “Cheeseball Champ.”
In London, the first winner of the competitive Cheeseball Tournament was our very own Max Heimbrock, who faced stiff competition and beat 24 other competitors to raise the Golden Cheeseball Trophy. Next, Sai Aguru, one of the Seattle developers, beat out 26 other competitors to be crowned the Cheeseball Champ of Seattle.
A true Hero’s Journey was that of our own Developer Support Engineer, Gilberto Zayas, who placed dead last at the first stop in London, but didn’t let that discourage him. He kept refining his craft across the tour and beat out everyone at our biggest world tour stop in NYC!
Although Gilberto was not in LA to defend his Cheeseball Champion title, a new Cheeseball Champion emerged victorious from underneath all the cheese crumbs. Jake Mandozzi, Senior Software Engineer, had the honor of taking home the Golden Cheeseball Trophy after beating out 40 other competitors.
Teamwork makes the dream work
During the Lightship VPS World Tour, regardless of what city we were in, one thing remained constant: Developers achieved incredible feats by working together. The Niantic Team was impressed by what the Lightship community could build with the limited amount of time they had.
It’s these same developers who continually inspire us to make our products even better by working closely with them. We are excited to add more world tour stops in the coming year. Keep an eye out for upcoming announcements about Lightship events, and be sure to join our Discord channel if you haven’t already.
Interested in building with Lightship VPS? Check out our quick start guide to learn how to build real-world AR experiences.