Niantic makes augmented reality games like Pokémon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite. These games allow players to venture around the real world and interact with superimposed characters and items. The company is now teaming up with theater group Punchdrunk to bring its technology to the stage. By adding AR to immersive drama, the two hope to create a new type of narrative experience.
Punchdrunk is the company behind Sleep No More, a retelling of Macbeth that doesn’t take a traditional approach to theater. Instead, the audience is immersed in a set featuring multiple rooms in which they can examine props, eavesdrop on actors and put the narrative pieces together for themselves. While Niantic hasn’t provided any details on how its AR technology could be integrated into this type of production, it sounds like Punchdrunk would be able to create virtual props, characters and settings that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to include in a play, either due to cost or size issues.
Niantic also announced that it has been experimenting with AR glasses and other wearables, though it’s not clear if these will be used by Punchdrunk. The developer says it is working on 10 new games, and is still hard at work on its Settlers of Catan adaptation. Catan: World Explorers will enter beta soon, and will turn real-life neighborhoods into a giant strategy game.
Sleep No More is a popular attraction in New York City. If Punchdrunk is able to use Niantic’s augmented reality technology to create an even more innovative approach to storytelling, the two companies could have a big hit on their hands.