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Pokémon Go developer’s new tech makes AR Pikachu more realistic than ever

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Niantic’s occlusion demo lets Pokémon hide behind real-world objects

Pokémon Go developer Niantic is making its augmented reality tech more like actual reality, as seen in a new demo that lets virtual versions of Pokémon like Pikachu and Eevee hide behind real-world objects.

A brief video of Niantic’s demo, dubbed Codename: Niantic Occlusion, shows AR characters running behind people who are walking as well as static objects in a real-world environment — not just slapped over top of a camera feed, the presentation Pokémon Go players are used to.

Niantic describes the tech in action on its YouTube channel:

The recently acquired Matrix Mill team at Niantic has spent years building and perfecting deep neural networks that can infer information about the surrounding world from one or more cameras. This technology redefines how machines see and understand the 3D world and more importantly, how digital objects can interact with the real elements of it. Using computer vision and deep learning we are able to develop techniques to understand 3D space enabling much more realistic Augmented Reality (AR) interactions than are currently possible. In the above AR experience of Codename: Niantic Occlusion, you can see Pikachu and Eevee weaving through and around different objects in the real world, dodging feet and hiding behind planters. This level of integration into the environment around us is a proof-of-concept that excites us about the future of AR.

While Niantic describes Codename: Niantic Occlusion as in its proof-of-concept stages, there are clearly intriguing gameplay possibilities that could come from this kind of advancement. If virtual characters like Pokémon can become aware of the things they can hide behind, that might make games like Pokémon Go more challenging to play in AR mode.