Niantic’s new 5G AR game demo looks like a taste of Pokemon Go for the future


What’s this? A family enjoying a day in a park — but they’re blasting shots at creatures around them. It sounds like Pokemon Go, but more active. Niantic’s new augmented-reality 5G gaming demo app also seems like a taste of what could be coming with AR glasses, too. 

Codename: Urban Legends is a multiplayer game that, as you can see below, could be played in groups in one place at the same time. “Built on our platform that also powers Niantic signature titles including Ingress, Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite, Codename: Urban Legends leverages 5G’s ultralow latency and high bandwidth capabilities to deliver a deeply immersive, highly social AR experience,” Niantic says about the demo. “By teaming up, players cast magic spells to blast monsters and rescue mythical allies, including Doty, the original Niantic Explorer.”

The multiplayer part is what’s particularly new here. The real-time action is reminiscent of what Niantic seemed to be aiming for in a partnership with Microsoft last month, using the HoloLens 2 to test what multiplayer Pokemon Go gaming on AR headsets would feel like.

Deutsche Telekom, Globe Telecom and Verizon are already testing the demo on their 5G networks, according to Niantic. Niantic’s carrier partners for its “Planet-Scale AR Alliance,” which is a group testing how global AR could work across carriers, include Deutsche Telekom, EE, Globe Telecom, Orange, SK Telecom, SoftBank, Telus, Verizon and Telstra.

Niantic is an intriguing company to watch because it’s already become a killer app of AR with Pokemon Go. Niantic is developing more Nintendo games in AR, starting with Pikmin. The company’s also been collaborating with Qualcomm on a pair of next-gen AR smart glasses that CEO John Hanke teased yesterday.

Those glasses aren’t here yet, but they could very well end up using phones to connect to 5G. This Niantic demo app announced today looks like a stepping-stone to testing 5G networks’ readiness to push AR forward. That being said, for many people, 5G network speeds sometimes aren’t much better than LTE.

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