Niantic’s new Pokémon GO feature incentivizes users to ‘AR scan’ nearby landmarks

Niantic announced a Pokémon GO feature today that will incentivize users to conduct more AR scans of landmarks in their neighborhood. This user-generated data will help Niantic build its “real-world metaverse,” which will be powered largely by Lightship, its free AR Development Kit (ARDK).

In Pokémon GO, users visit PokéStops, which represent real-world places — these can be anything from a mundane mailbox, to a major historic site, to a cool statue that you never noticed in your neighborhood. Pokémon GO’s landmark database has gotten much bigger over time, but it was already pretty huge at launch — thanks largely to data submitted by players of Ingress, the game Niantic built back when it was a tiny side-project inside of Google.

To conduct an AR scan of a PokéStop, you tap a scan button and are then prompted to walk slowly around the area while your camera captures data about your physical, real-world surroundings. Players have the option to wait until later (perhaps when they’re connected to Wi-Fi) to send Niantic their scan. These scans help build out a 3D world map for Niantic’s games, as well as those developed through the ARDK.

You’ve been able to scan PokéStops and Gyms within the game for a while now, but there’s been little incentive for players to do so. Now scanning a PokéStop will cause it to “power-up,” yielding better in-game rewards for any player who visits the stop before said power-up wears off. Spinning a PokéStop always gives players items to help them catch Pokémon, but a powered-up Stop will give them even more.

PokéStops will have three visually distinct levels: they reach level one at five scans, level two at 10 scans and level three at 25 scans. The higher the level, the longer the power-up will last, and the more items it will reward. For Niantic, meanwhile, more scans = higher fidelity data.

“Scanning new places will help create exciting new AR experiences for Trainers worldwide, and long term will help create a Real-World Metaverse, where people can explore the world overlaid with digital creations,” the company said in an announcement.

While all players will be able to spin a powered-up Stop, they’ll have to reach level 20 before they can scan a landmark themselves — a way, perhaps, of avoiding spam uploads.