In 2018, Niantic unveiled its in-development augmented reality cloud platform for smartphones, the Niantic Real World Platform. A demo showed Pikachu and Eevee cavorting in a courtyard, darting in front of and behind potted plants and people’s legs as they walked through the scene. This would be the future of Pokémon GO.

Image by Niantic/YouTube

That proof of concept is now about to arrive in the game itself with a new feature called Reality Blending, which will roll out to Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10 and Google Pixel 3 and Pixel 4 handsets in early June, with additional devices joining the fun later.

Reality Blending brings the quality of occlusion, or the ability of the app to recognize real-world objects and display AR content in front of and behind those obstacles. Without occlusion, Pokémon float unrealistically on top of objects in the camera view.

“Pokémon will be able to hide behind a real object or be occluded by a tree or table blocking its path, just like a Pokémon would appear in the physical world,” said Kjell Bronder senior product manager for AR at Niantic in a statement.

Image by Niantic/YouTube

Also in June, Niantic will debut Pokéstop Scanning, an opt-in feature that asks players to help Niantic build the 3D maps that are the foundation of the Niantic Real World Platform.

Niantic had previously deployed this component of Real World in Ingress earlier this year. In Ingress, the feature is called Portal Scanning and it tasks players with pointing their smartphone cameras at the landmarks, walking around them, and then uploading the data to Niantic.

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Image via Niantic

Of course, Portals and Pokéstop are based on the same landmarks, so the data from players of both games will contribute to Real World 3D maps.

“This will allow us in the future to tie virtual objects to real-world locations and provide Pokémon with spatial and contextual awareness of their surroundings. For instance, this awareness will help Snorlax find that perfect patch of grass to nap on or give Clefairy a tree to hide behind,” said Bronder.

The feature will roll out first to level 40 trainers. However, based on recent rollouts, the space between level tiers could be just a matter of hours. For example, in the rollout of Buddy Adventures, a tweet announcing the availability of the feature for level 40 trainers was followed by a level 30 tweet less than 30 minutes later.

The Niantic Real World Platform delivers what has become known as AR cloud technology for smartphones and, eventually, AR wearables. The platform supplies multiplayer capabilities, persistent content, and occlusion through a standard smartphone camera, whereas devices like HoloLens 2 and Magic Leap 1 rely on depth sensors for these capabilities.

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