An annoying but understandable quirk about the current state of most augmented reality applications is that virtual items imposed on an AR view don't relate to the world in a believable way: they just sit on top of a scene, regardless of whether or not real-world objects should appear in front of them. "Pokémon Go" developer Niantic showed off its impressive solution to this problem today in what it's calling Codename: Niantic Occlusion — using of course, Pokémon.
In a demonstration video, popular Pokémon Pikachu and Eevee scamper around a busy plaza, ducking behind potted plants and weaving between pedestrians, appearing into and disappearing from view at all the right times.
The demo isn't perfect; the critters still exhibit standard AR jank and occasionally show through the things and people between themselves and the camera, and at one point, a contraction joint in the concrete is visible through Pikachu's body. Nonetheless, it's a promising first look.
The real-world AR occlusion tech responsible for the demonstration is made possible by Niantic's Real World Platform, which uses machine learning to map and track objects in 3D space. "The Niantic Real World Platform is building towards contextual computer vision, where AR objects understand and interact with real world objects in unique ways–stopping in front of them, running past them, or maybe even jumping into them," Niantic wrote in a blog post.
Interestingly, Niantic says it plans to open the Real World Platform up to other studios. The developer will be choosing "a handful" of third parties to begin working with the platform later this year. Developers interested in using the tech can sign up for more information at Niantic's developer page.