Location AR

Build immersive experiences with tools to connect AR precisely to the world around you.


Lightship VPS for Web

With our Visual Positioning System (VPS), developers can determine a user's position and orientation with centimeter-level accuracyin seconds. Now, create location-based WebAR experiences that connect the real world with the digital one. 

black-checkmark Choose from over 170,000 locations or add your own to transform everyday places to AR destinations. 

black-checkmark  Use a 3D mesh of the location to enable occlusion and physics.

black-checkmark  Persist WebAR content across sessions and users.

Lightship Maps

Lightship Maps is built on top of the same technology Niantic uses to power our most popular real-world games. Unlike other tools built for automotive or data visualization, Lightship Maps is specifically designed for AR with features like:

black-checkmark  Easy-to-use customizable maps to fit every experience.

black-checkmark  Vector maps for smooth zooming and panning.

black-checkmark  Tools to build experiences based on the metadata of the map itself.

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Answers to commonly asked questions about Location AR

What is Lightship VPS?

Lightship VPS (Visual Positioning System) is a cloud service that enables applications to localize a user’s device at real-world locations, letting users interact with persistent AR content and powering new immersive experiences. VPS determines the device’s position and orientation (pose) by referencing Niantic Map data that exists in Niantic’s cloud.

What is Niantic Map?

Niantic Map is our third-generation, 3D map that enables machines to determine their precise position and orientation in the world. It consists of many petabytes of geospatial data that are used by Lightship VPS to precisely orient (localize) users in their physical space. VPS uses computer vision algorithms to compare the scene in front of the user’s camera to location data stored in Niantic Map. This is the glue that binds the physical world to the digital world, making highly immersive location-based AR possible.

How does Lightship VPS work?

When a device makes a call to the VPS service, the service receives a query image from the user’s device along with their rough location (from GPS) as inputs and attempts to localize them using the map(s) that exist at that location on Niantic Map. If localization is successful, then the service returns the device’s position and orientation (pose) corresponding with the timestamp of the image that was transmitted. Because there is a time delay between when a VPS query image is captured and when a response is received from the VPS service, the device needs to have a motion tracking system in order to stay accurately localized while moving. When the VPS service returns a pose estimate to the device, the difference in pose from the device’s tracking system is added to the localization response so that VPS can “keep up” with how the device moved while waiting for the server’s response to the VPS query.

What is a scan?

AR scans from players, developers, and surveyors are the fundamental ingredient that Niantic uses to build its AR map of the world. AR scans are recorded and uploaded using Niantic's AR scanning framework, which is a module used inside Pokemon Go, Ingress, and the Wayfarer App. Each AR scan consists of a series of video frames with supporting data from accelerometers and GPS sensors that construct a 3D model of the world from multiple 2D images. AR scans are used by Niantic to build the maps and meshes of real-world locations that make up Niantic Map.

Where can I use Lightship VPS?

VPS is available at over 170,000 real-world locations on Niantic Map, with more locations being added every day. Developers can scan locations at any time to add them to Niantic Map and enable VPS-powered experiences at them. 

In order for a location to be available on VPS, a sufficient amount of AR scan data must be uploaded at that location and VPS activation must be requested and completed. Developers can see the activation status of locations in the Geospatial Browser.

Can I request VPS activation of a new location?

Yes. Once a location has enough scans uploaded to meet the VPS activation requirements (at least 10 total scans with at least a 5-hour time difference between the oldest and newest scans), developers can request VPS activation by selecting the location in the Wayfarer app or the Geospatial Browser and pressing the “activate” button. This will add the location to the activation queue. Typically, an activation request is completed within 2 hours. Developers also have the option to request reactivation of an existing location once 5 additional scans are uploaded.

Does VPS work at night or in poor weather conditions?

VPS works best when there is good visibility. In order to maximize the likelihood of successful VPS-powered experiences, it is best to upload many AR scans that cover a wide swath of different conditions (e.g. different times of day, different weather conditions, etc.). If you are building an experience in a location that gets a lot of rain, having some scans from a rainy day is very helpful.

What are the use cases for Lightship VPS?

Lightship VPS is a powerful way to make a user’s experience of their environment more magical or to deepen their understanding of a place. Some popular use cases include:

  • Social real-world games. VPS lets players interact with the same persistent content in augmented reality, opening up new possibilities for location-based play as well as enhancing classic experiences like geocaching. When combined with Shared AR, developers can create AR games for up to 10 users to play together in real time.

  • Scavenger hunts. Developers can turn entire cities into gameboards by challenging players to locate places or items and rewarding them when VPS validates they’ve found them.

  • Tours. Tourism boards and community organizations can reveal the histories and secrets of their towns by using VPS to display content about a location as a user points their device at it. 

  • Storefront activations. Retailers can transform storefronts without needing to make physical changes by overlaying augmented reality content over them, triggered for potential customers by VPS.

  • AR Installations. Venues and artists can decorate spaces with highly immersive creations that blend perfectly with their surroundings using VPS. 

  • Verified location. VPS enables powerful anti-spoofing functionality that uses visual information in addition to GPS to prove that a user is at a particular location.

What is Lightship Maps for Web?

Niantic Lightship Maps for Web is a module that provides easy-to-use and customizable real-world maps to build your location-based WebAR experiences. It makes it easy to create a variety of location-based experiences like:

  • Create a 3D character on a map with a user's GPS location.
  • Create city-wide WebAR experiences, like scavenger hunts.
  • Teleport to any location in the world.
  • Visualize project VPS locations and nearby VPS-activated locations on a map.
  • Help users understand the distance to various locations.
What functionalities does Lightship Maps for Web support?

Lightship Maps supports the following functionality:

  • Zoom in to the street level and zoom out to see the entire city.
  • Choose from several preconfigured map themes, or deeply customize the look and feel of the map and various content types, such as roads, buildings, parks, and water.
  • Enable game-like camera view.
How is Lightship Maps for Web different than other mapping providers?

Unlike mapping providers that started by building maps for automotive or data visualization, Lightship Maps is specifically designed for AR use cases. Maps prioritize key features critical for AR like vector-based maps for smooth zooming and panning around the map and map caching for fast loading in areas of low connectivity.

As an integral part of the Lightship platform, developers have a one-stop shop for building map-based AR experiences without the hassle of managing multiple services.

What zoom levels are supported by Lightship Maps for Web?

Lightship Maps tiles span from zoom level 0 (one tile for the world) to zoom level 17 (17,179,869,184 tiles for the world).

These features are available at different zoom levels:

  • 0-5 | Landmass, major water bodies, country/state labels
  • 6-11 | Landmass, major water bodies, large parks (parks, woods, wetlands), railway, highways, city/town labels
  • 12-14 | Landmass, all water bodies, large parks (parks, woods, wetlands), railway, highway, major roads
  • 15-17 | Landmass, all water bodies, all land use, all roads/paths