May 31 – Niantic, creators of Pokemon GO, has this week announced its first mixed reality headset experience with the launch of ‘Wol,’ a mixed reality experience that utilizes passthrough augmented reality (AR) to bring the outdoors to users.
Wol features a Northern Saw-whet owl that joins users in their space through an AR portal which opens a door to the redwood forest. As an AI-enabled owl, Wol is ready to have a natural conversation with players about the plants on the forest floor, the lifecycle of a tree and the creatures of the forest.
This limited release, browser-based experience was built to showcase 8th Wall’s Metaversal Deployment feature, which enables developers to build once and deploy everywhere — smartphones, computers, tablets, VR HMDs, and now mixed reality devices like Meta Quest Pro.
According to Niantic, Metaversal Deployment was designed for a new responsive web where immersive websites need to adapt to a device ecosystem that now includes flat screens and wearable headsets. The company noted that one of the key benefits of Metaversal Deployment is allowing users to access the same AR-enabled website on any device and have a meaningful experience, such as 3D on computers, AR on mobile, and mixed reality on passthrough capable devices. This in turn gives developers the widest reach possible for the content they have created.
“The web is a powerful place for augmented reality and we are excited to highlight how the 8th Wall platform can be used to create browser-based content that works across devices including smartphones and mixed reality headsets,” said Tom Emrich, Director of Product Management at Niantic. “We created Wol to inspire developers to build their own WebAR content that makes use of the truly immersive capabilities of mixed reality passthrough while benefiting from the massive reach and scale of mobile.”
While Wol can be engaged with on iOS and Android smartphones, it was optimized for use on the Meta Quest Pro, which blends a user’s physical and virtual environment together with full-color mixed reality passthrough. Leveraging the room setup feature on Quest, the Wol experience understands where the walls and surfaces are within a room and uses them to transform the space into the redwood forest.
Wol was developed in partnership with Liquid City, a design practice specializing in XR and AI, with a focus on shaping a positive future for technology in society. The team developed Wol using the 8th Wall Cloud Editor, 8th Wall’s cloud-based IDE, which is built from the ground up for WebAR development and offers all the tools needed for teams to create, collaborate and publish immersive experiences across devices.
“We are excited to explore how XR and AI can combine to enable new ways of learning. You can visit Wol just by clicking a link – your living room will transform into the redwood forest, whether you’re on mobile or headset. It’s a really simple and approachable way to learn about the forest ecosystem, with a lot of depth and character,” said Keiichi Matsuda, Director at Liquid City.
Niantic added that in addition to showcasing the company’s capabilities in mixed reality, Wol also highlights the 8th Wall platform’s readiness to leverage generative AI to enhance AR experiences. The AI-enabled character, Wol, was created using Inworld AI, the developer platform for AI characters. The Inworld Engine is composed of several machine learning and character AI models that are designed to mimic human gestures, speech, safety, emotion, and memory. Inworld’s technology has been integrated with 8th Wall to power Wol’s distinct personality and contextual awareness within the experience.
“Generative AI and AR go hand-in-hand and we were excited to join forces with Niantic and Liquid City on creating a first-of-its-kind browser-based experience which features an AI-enabled character,” said John Gaeta, Chief Creative Officer at Inworld.
For more information on Niantic, the 8th Wall platform, and the Wol mixed reality experience, please visit the company’s website.
Image / video credit: Niantic / 8th Wall / YouTube
About the author
Sam is the Founder and Managing Editor of Auganix. With a background in research and report writing, he has been covering XR industry news for the past seven years.