Augmented RealityNews

Spring Has Sprung for Niantic and 8th Wall

Niantic and 8th Wall both have new developer tools and new user experiences.


It’s already been a year since Niantic acquired 8th Wall. While acquisitions can be a scary thing in the tech world, both companies are growing and strengthening through their partnership.

Pillars of the Earth

Niantic and 8th Wall are both AR companies that might be bigger and more important than some realize. However, they both come at AR architecture and accessibility from different perspectives. Their coming together was a game changer that’s hard to understate.

Niantic Senior Director of AR Product Marketing, Caitlin Lacey, helps us understand what the companies are doing in their own products and projects as well as how they are helping each other grow and develop.

“I joined Niantic a year ago primarily to focus on Lightship, and one of the things that I was really excited about coming in was the acquisition,” said Lacey. “Having 8th Wall as part of the Niantic family has definitely made it better.”


For some readers, Niantic is synonymous with Pokémon Go. If you Ctrl+K “Niantic”, Google Docs suggests the Pokémon Go website as a link option. Other readers will recognize this as a gross misrepresentation. Pokémon Go may have made Niantic a household name, but it only scratches the surface of what the historic and storied company actually does.

In addition to games (including the just released AR real-world pet game Peridot), Niantic has probably the largest and most detailed working virtual map of the world ever. A few years ago, that was a neat trick. As devices become more powerful and AR gains traction, it’s increasingly becoming something a lot more.

Niantic Peridot AR pet game

Niantic games gather data for this virtual map of the world, but they also have a dedicated platform called Lightship that developers use to fill in the empty spots, add detail, and create their own experiences. Whether you’re building or playing, you’re using an app.

8th Wall

Like its parent company, readers have probably seen the 8th Wall logo on an AR experience but might not realize the magnitude of the operation. Also like its parent company, users can experience 8th Wall both through experiences that they enjoy or through developer tools.

See Also:  ROSE and Mastercard® Augment the Miami Design District in a New Immersive Experience

Over the years, 8th Wall has been building out their developer tools and experiences making them easier to use and accessible on more devices. The company has tools for augmenting the world around a user, as well as for augmenting users themselves through lenses and filters.

8th Wall’s experiences and developer tools are web-based. No app installation required, they’re well-positioned to run on pretty much any connected device.

Web and Apps

Apps have a certain gravity bringing obstacles and opportunities. People know how apps work and they know what to expect. Apps can run larger and more in-depth experiences, but they only do one thing at a time. These two necessary strengths are at odds when people expect an experience to do everything and do it well – an unrealistic expectation called “the metaverse.”

“It took a long time to train people how to use apps, but now they’re trained,” said Lacey. However, as she points out, “if you’re thinking about a future where all of these mobile technologies have AR capabilities”, opening and switching apps can become a hassle.

WebAR is getting better all the time, but it’s still limited in terms of the experiences it can run. Thinking about being out and about, this compounds as people are away from stable home networks and relying on burdened public networks or potentially spotty data coverage.

See Also:  Niantic’s “Real-World Metaverse” Comes to WebAR via 8th Wall

“There are still limitations to experience and file size that the web just can’t handle,” said Lacey. “As computing power continues to grow and get stronger, we’ll see better experiences across platforms.”

In the meantime, both companies are working on leveraging their strengths in app and webAR respectively trying to achieve the best of both worlds in both worlds.

“On the Lightship side, there was tons of tech that was very app-based … we took that and asked, ‘What do you want, and how do we bring it to the web?’” said Lacey. “And then, on the other side, bringing things from the web to Lightship.”

Updates and Releases From Niantic and 8th Wall

In the last few weeks, some exciting changes have come for developers using both developer platforms – including some of those updates that look a lot like a cross-pollination between the two platforms.

Sky and World Effects

First, Sky Effects and World Tracking came to 8th Wall. These are two separate developer tools that allow an AR experience to augment the sky itself, or to help AR elements realistically appear in the physical world. However, when used together, a single experience can bridge the earth and heavens in new and immersive ways.

“With sky and world effects, an object drops from the sky, recognizes the environment, and can interact with that environment,” said Lacey. “We’re seeing that happen across the board and there’s more coming.”

To celebrate the launch, 8th Wall held the “Sky Effects Challenge” which invited developers to use the new technology in interesting and inventive ways. Creators turned the sky into a canvas, mapped the planets, and more.

“We are consistently amazed by what our community builds,” said Lacey.

A Cross-Device Scanning Framework

A new Scanning Framework for Lightship AR Developer’s Kit 2.5 allows users to virtually reconstruct physical spaces and objects without LiDAR. LiDAR is one of two common methods for capturing spatial data on mobile devices, but it’s only available on higher-end iOS devices. Opening the Scanning Framework to other methods greatly increases accessibility.

“We’ve continually heard the feedback, and we’re listening,” said Lacey. “We really want to be a consistent partner to developers in the AR space. We do believe that AR can help make the world more interesting and fun.”

Two New Games

8th Wall doesn’t do so much in the games category – again, games still work better as full apps for now. However, a big theme in this article is that the line between the two companies can be a little foggy these days – at least in terms of user experience. These apps likely benefited from 8th Wall technology and 8th Wall will likely benefit from what the apps learn and earn for Niantic.

Early this year, Niantic launched NBA All World. The app includes basketball mechanics and an NBA partnership, and grows to incorporate elements that make it more than just a game.

“Our version of an NBA basketball game starts with exciting one-on-one gameplay and expands from there to include the major elements of basketball culture, including music, fashion, sneakers, and more, all of which are integrated into real-world locations,” Niantic founder and CEO John Hanke said in a blog post.

If that wasn’t enough, by the time you read this, Peridot will be live. The highly anticipated game encourages players to nurture an AI-powered virtual pet, including feeding it, petting it, and playing with it. Players can also use Niantic’s social platform Campfire to meet with other players and breed new and unique Peridots (or Dots).

Spring Has Sprung for Niantic and 8th Wall


I’m not a huge basketball fan and Pokémon is a chapter of my life that closed a long time ago, but I’ve had my Dot Erin for a few days now. Erin mainly hangs out by my desk eating sandwiches, but was pretty excited to see the spring flowers in my backyard the other day.

Peridot AR pet game Niantic - Jon's Dot Erin

Much More to Come

Lacey advised that a lot more updates to Niantic and 8th Wall will continue to reinforce both platforms for the benefit of developers and end-users alike. There are also some interesting artistic activations coming in the next few weeks. And, of course, we’re excited about Peridot becoming publicly available. There’s definitely a lot more to come from this power pair.

Jon Jaehnig
the authorJon Jaehnig
Jon Jaehnig is a freelance journalist with special interest in emerging technologies. Jon has a degree in Scientific and Technical Communication from Michigan Technological University and lives in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you have a story suggestion for Jon, you may contact him here.