Geo Week News

August 11, 2021

Makers of Pokémon Go acquire 3D scanning app Scaniverse

By increasing its 3D scanning capabilities, Niantic can expand the “real world gameboard” for its users.

As cameras and lidar technology have made their way to consumer devices, so, too have the apps that have enabled 3D scanning. While phone makers have pursued depth capturing technology in recent years to enhance augmented reality, software designed to take advantage of these 3D advances still has some room for growth.

In a move that may firm up the utility of 3D scanning apps, Niantic Labs, makers of the popular augmented reality game, Pokémon Go, have announced the purchase of Scaniverse by Toolbox AI. Scaniverse is a 3D scanning app for iOS, and has become popular for its user-friendliness when capturing, editing and sharing 3D objects using depth information and lidar from smartphones.  

Scaniverse pioneered a fast and user-friendly way to capture, edit and share 3D content using a smartphone camera. By joining forces with Niantic, Scaniverse can make multi-OS scanning easier and more accessible to the existing Niantic Explorer community.

For Kjell Bronder, Group Product Manager of Augmented reality at Niantic, the end goal is to enable better and faster 3D mapping for a variety of applications. 

“The easier it is to scan, the faster it is to build a 3D map of the world. Higher quality scans allow for more fun and engaging experiences Niantic can support as both a publisher and for third-party apps that use our Lightship platform.”

“Imagine everyone simultaneously experiencing Pokémon habitats in the real world, or digital characters taking us on a walking tour of hidden city gems, or friends leaving personal notes in real world locations to find later. This is what large-scale mapping can enable, and we’re excited to continue building its future,” Bronder added.

According to the announcement from Niantic, Scaniverse CEO Keith Ito will join Niantic’s AR engineering team. In a blog post reflecting on the announcement, Ito shared that he intended to pursue making 3D scanning even easier and more detailed.

“Niantic is equally optimistic about the future of 3D. They’ve spent the last decade building a living 3D map of the world for exploration and shared experiences. Along the way, they’ve established themselves as a leader in augmented reality. Together, we plan on taking 3D scanning to new heights by combining Niantic’s dynamic mapping with Scaniverse’s lidar reconstruction, and I could not be more excited.”

After the acquisition, Scaniverse will remain in the App Store, and development will continue on the platform. One change that is effective immediately, however, is that the pro version of the app - Scaniverse Pro will become free of charge. The pro version allows for higher resolution processing as well as the ability to export models to other software. 

Part of the vision of Scaniverse was to create and share 3D scenes as easily as one can share photographs and videos, something that Ito still sees as a vision for the future. 

“Though the technology is still in its early days, we can see the outlines of a future in which anyone can effortlessly capture every memory in 3D. Over the coming months and years, we hope build out the technology necessary to achieve this vision.”

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