Pokemon Go maker Niantic acquires 3D scanning app Scaniverse

The company aims to work real-world scanning into its AR phone and glasses plans

Scott Stein Editor at Large
I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets. My background includes an MFA in theater which I apply to thinking about immersive experiences of the future.
Expertise VR and AR, gaming, metaverse technologies, wearable tech, tablets Credentials
  • Nearly 20 years writing about tech, and over a decade reviewing wearable tech, VR, and AR products and apps
Scott Stein
2 min read

iOS app Scaniverse is being acquired by Niantic: expect 3D world-scanning in future AR games.

Scaniverse / Screenshot by Scott Stein/CNET

Another 3D-scanning tool has been acquired by a company aspiring to make a metaverse. A few weeks ago, Epic Games acquired 3D asset repository Sketchfab. Now Niantic just acquired Scaniverse, a phone app that scans real-world objects using lidar.

The acquisition looks to strengthen Niantic's plans to build augmented reality hardware and software that can recognize the real world and blend virtual and real objects together. Niantic is planning its own AR glasses concept, but is also collaborating with companies like Qualcomm and Microsoft

Last year, Niantic acquired the company 6d.ai to build crowdsourced scans of the real world into persistent AR-ready maps. More recently, Niantic revealed its toolkit for making real world-based social AR experiences. The Scaniverse acquisition looks to make the self-scanning part easier for phone users: the tech can work with or without lidar. According to Niantic, the Scaniverse app will remain as a separate mobile download for phones, with Scaniverse CEO Keith Ito joining Niantic's engineering team.

While many companies are promising next-generation AR glasses that can blend the virtual and real, none have emerged as mainstream products yet.

Niantic CEO John Hanke says the company's prototype AR glasses already exist, but that the final versions aren't ready yet. "Although we already have the first versions of hardware for internal R&D, we are just beginning this work, which we expect to continue over many years," Hanke sees more games "or reality channels" as part of the company's strategy, towards a world of AR where real world and entertainment blend. Hanke seems critical of some of the current concepts of metaverses, aiming for a different take that's entirely layered over the real world.

"Going back to our vision for software and content, we imagine a future of worlds that can be overlaid on the real world. For now, we're calling these 'reality channels' to give the idea a name. Think of Pokémon GO, upgraded for smart glasses where the Pokémon wander through your local park, seeming to actually inhabit the world. In this future version, Pokémon appear to you as if they are really there, scurrying around passing pedestrians, hiding behind a park bench, or roaming in herds through your favorite park. Buildings might take on the pastel hues of the Pokémon universe; a 10-story Pokémon GO Gym might rise above your local shopping center. If you encounter another player on the street, they might even appear transformed into the guise of their in-game persona. Multiply this kind of channel x1000: Mario, Transformers, Marvel's superhero universe, the world of Wakanda, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Bladerunner, Sherlock Holmes, Nancy Drew, The Maltese Falcon — all of these and countless more will exist as reality channels that you can turn on, transforming your daily routine into something a bit more magical, intriguing, exciting — and most of all, a little more fun."