Oh hello. What’s this then? A Niantic-branded AR headset? Perhaps? John Hanke, CEO of the Pokémon GO developer teased what could be a first-party head-mounted wearable, as the company makes a more aggressive push into augmented reality.
“Exciting to see the progress we’re making to enable new kinds of devices that leverage our platform,” the executive noted in the text accompanying an image of eyeglasses temples sporting the Niantic name in bright orange.
Niantic has been a fairly active investor in the augmented reality hardware space, so there is also the possibility that they’ve done a branding partnership with a startup on a project, but this cryptic image crop is certainly making it look like they’re showcasing a device with first-party branding. There’s also the potential that this is a product in the “smart glasses” category that doesn’t include a display but focuses on building audio or camera functionality into a pair of glasses. Niantic has previously announced that they’ve been working with Qualcomm to help define their reference design for their XR hardware platform.
We’ve reached out to Niantic for additional comment.
Notably, the Twitter teaser also follows Niantic’s posting of a job listing for a Head of AR OS Engineering.
“We are on an ambitious mission to turn the world into an Augmented Reality canvas which games and other applications can paint on top of,” the listing states. “This future is fully realized on AR Head Mounted Displays (HMDs). Niantic’s Engineering Team is seeking an inspirational leader to oversee the engineering direction to help build an AR operating system for HMDs and enable applications for millions of Niantic players.”
The image arrives amid a recent flurry of activity for the one-time Google spin-out. Last week the company announced an AR title based on Pikmin, another Nintendo collaboration following its wildly successful Pokémon title. Earlier this month, it showed off a proof-of-concept version of Pokémon GO running on Microsoft’s HoloLens 2.
Niantic’s AR platform has stayed under wraps for the most part as the company seems to wait for a more active moment in augmented reality development to make a major push. Part of that activity may ultimately be defined by a broader AR hardware ecosystem, and as Apple and Facebook compete to release their own devices, I would imagine that there is some concern among players like Niantic that those early devices will focus on first-party software initially and leave fewer platform opportunities for third-parties.