Niantic, the technology company behind Pokemon Go, is partnering with UK-based digital technology authority Digital Catapult to develop a ‘real-world metaverse’.

The Niantic Lightship Augmented Reality Accelerator will give UK startups the chance to develop immersive experiences alongside global children’s brand Cartoon Network and internationally renowned choreographer Wayne McGregor.

The programme will explore how AR technology can define the real-world metaverse, becoming the next platform for social interactions, enriching human experiences and bringing people closer together.

Niantic recently launched a Lightship Augmented Developer Kit, which aims to lower the barrier to entry for developers to create AR experiences.

Three startups are set to be awarded up to £100,000 each to develop a demonstrator of a socially engaging AR experience using the platform.

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“At Studio Wayne McGregor, we have always been committed to exploring the ever-inspiring relationship of new technologies and human performance – powered by physical intelligence,” said Wayne McGregor CBE. 

“This unique collaboration with Niantic and Digital Catapult allows us to dream bigger and venture further into our evolving metaverse(s), visioning a new kind of shared creative adventure that untethers the imagination. 

“We know that deeply engaging with movement gives us an intimate insight into what it is to be human and expands our understanding of our place in the world. This project provides everybody with accessible tools to tap into their innate creativity, to connect playfully with others and to explore their bodies and spaces they inhabit in surprising, limitless ways.”

The new partnership, which sits under the FutureScope accelerator programme, adds to Digital Catapult’s impressive roster of immersive programmes. Digital Catapult’s reach to the immersive ecosystem is the strongest of any organisation in the UK: last year, CreativeXR, its flagship immersive accelerator, received 750 applications. 

Digital Catapult will deliver Niantic’s Lightship developer toolkit and funding to the startups with the most creative ideas that bring people together and enrich real-world experiences.

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Jeremy Silver, CEO of Digital Catapult, added: “The UK has unique strength in the large number of creative studios and businesses which have come out of sectors such as games, TV, film, vfx, theatre and music and which are now leveraging AR & VR technology to explore the creation of entirely new kinds of immersive experience. 

“As one of the world’s leading businesses at the forefront of enabling the growth of augmented reality as a platform for new products and services, Digital Catapult is delighted to be collaborating with Niantic to drive early adopters and open up this new field of cultural and commercial opportunity.  

“Bringing these brilliant partners together and enabled by Niantic’s Lightship technology, this exciting accelerator programme will give innovative companies the opportunity to develop totally new kinds of experience, blending the digital with the real world.”