Pokemon Go Players Help Create 3D Map Of The World

Pokemon Go AR Map

Imagine one day stepping out of your house and putting on a pair of special glasses to play Pokémon Go or another AR game. You watch in amazement as the world around you gets transformed into your favorite town or city from Pokémon. Sound a bit too far-fetched (pun intended) for you? Pokémon Go developer, Niantic, thinks otherwise. One of their chief executives discussed with Reuters earlier this week their plan to map the world in 3D!

While not clearly stated, it seems the idea is that while playing Pokémon Go, your smartphone camera will provide data on the surrounding areas to Niantic which they’ll use to develop these 3D maps. CEO John Hanke mentioned how mapping will start with public places such as parks and plazas. What are the potential applications of this?

Pokemon Go AR Map
The current map doesn’t really do much to create an immersive experience.

Let’s say that they decide to give this a test run at Chicago’s Lincoln Park during the next Pokémon Go Fest.  They can surely get enough data to do a complete 3D map considering the thousands of players expected to attend. With that kind of data, Niantic could create an interactive digital layer of the park which would actually replace the real-world background that you typically see through your phone. 

Currently, we’re used to seeing Pidgey like this:

Pidgey Pokemon Go
Image Source: Valleyforge

He’s simply floating randomly wherever you point your phone. Not too realistic is he?


Wouldn’t it be better if he could interact with the background? With Niantic’s bold move to create 3D maps, we could one day see a Pidgey out in the wild doing something he would actually be doing, like perching on a tree.

Pidgey Pokemon Go

Even better is the fact that other players would also be able to see him sitting in the same spot! Right now, Pokémon Go feels like we’re all more or less invisible bodies floating through a green grid.

There’s amazing value to 3 dimensionally mapping out the world and a lot of companies are competing with each other at the moment to get to the front of this race. Earlier this week, Google Maps said it would launch an augmented reality feature some time this year in specific cities that would compare live images from a phone to its Street View imagery database. By utilizing a combination of both of these features, they’ll be able to provide more reliable directions when GPS alone isn’t making the cut.

Maybe one day these 3D maps will allow us to play AR games that are currently only the stuff of futuristic movies and anime. Looking at you Sword Art Online.


Feature Image Courtesy of Niantic

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