In another breaking news from the AR giant, Niantic acquires Matrix Mill, a London based company working on neural-network technology. The latest acquisition will help Niantic improve Pokemon GO AR experience by making Pokemon hide behind objects in AR.
What is the problem with Pokemon GO AR?
Pokemon GO AR is quite wonderful and makes great use of the technology to let us delve into the world of Pokemon. There is one certain issue though. When Pokemon GO AR is in action, if something comes between the camera and the perceived Pokemon, instead of being hidden behind the object, the Pokemon just floats awkwardly over the new object. This is due to the phone lacking enough sensors to determine depth.
Where does Matrix Mill comes in?
There are other ways to determine depth from data from a single RGB camera. But most of them require powerful processing which isn’t readily available on most smartphones. Matrix Mill came out with a smart solution called ‘monodepth’. They use data from a single sensor and run it through a neural-network they created carefully over the years. The neural-network gets depth results within a few microseconds. Niantic can use the data in real time to calculate objects between Pokemon and you.
Therefore it was just a matter of time before Niantic acquires Matrix Mill. Niantic plans to make full use of the technology and allow the Pokemon GO AR to implement depth perception and make the AR more lifelike.
(Source : Niantic)
In the demo above by Niantic, you can see that in standard AR, the Pokemon either interacted quite badly with objects in between or they disappeared awkwardly. In the monodepth enabled AR, the Pokemon can easily go behind the objects and reappear when the object passes. Note that the tech is still under development. You can see how there are times when weird artifacts appear on screen when the Pokemon tries to cross an object. Niantic plans to finetune the game more. There is no confirmation from Niantic about when the integration to the game will finalise.
Niantic Acquires Matrix Mill. Now what?
The explosion of machine learning and neural networks has made so much more possible than what was earlier thought of. Companies like Niantic want to bring this tech to the masses so that they don’t feel left behind. The company is developing loads and loads of other games using this technology. And Pokemon GO is a perfect segway to the AR-ridden future.
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