Pokemon Go Maker Wants to Use Players to Create AR Map

Pokemon Go players may have a new challenge soon: using the game to create a crowdsourced map.

Niantic Inc., the maker of Pokemon Go and the upcoming Harry Potter: Wizards Unite game, announced plans to create a worldwide 3D map, with players of their games playing a large role.

In an interview with Reuters, Niantic CEO John Hanke laid out the company's plans to create an "AR map" using data collected by the cameras of smartphones used by their games' players. "“We want players to build out the game board they want to play on,” Hanke explained to Reuters.

Currently, AR technology is used to add characters or features in the foreground of an image generated by a smartphone or tablet camera. However, Niantic's proposed technology would use cameras to map the contours,objects, and boundaries of an area, which would allow for a continuously updated 3D map to be incorporated into a game. Using AR in games would give Niantic a constant stream of data with which to implement a map that's more accurate than ever.

This feature could also be used as a bedrock for other augmented reality features, such as affixing an AR item (like a Pokemon gym) to a specific spot. Currently, Pokemon Go and other AR games use GPS coordinates to approximate the locations of real world features.

Niantic's planned AR map has more uses than just Pokemon Go. Niantic also wants to give third party developers access to the map, which would create another valuable stream of income for the company.

Other technology companies are also trying to create similar 3D maps, using laser scans or focusing on interior mapping.


Niantic's plan does have some issues though. Some Pokemon Go players might not want their gaming experience to be used to collect data for Niantic to make even more money, and there's also the argument about whether Niantic can legally map data without property owners' consent. While it's one thing to use AR technology to map a park, private landowners could easily accuse Niantic of impeding on their rights, much in the same way some folks complained about Niantic sticking PokeStops on their property when Pokemon Go first launched.

Niantic doesn't have a firm timeline for their AR map, but we're guessing we'll see more news about it sooner as opposed to later. Niantic has some big plans for the summer, and it could all be a way to use players to gather more data for their next big project.