Google Spins Off Niantic Labs Augmented Reality Unit Following Alphabet Shakeup

Google project Niantic Labs is heading out on its own, the newly-formed company announced this week. The move comes as the company that was once Google is restructuring under its own newly-created parent organization, Alphabet. While some Google projects are becoming separate entities under Alphabet, others are launching as independent companies. Niantic Labs, which is known for its augmented reality game Ingress, is one.

niantic ingress google

“Niantic Labs is becoming an independent company,” the company announced on its Ingress Google+ page. “We’ll be taking out unique blend of exploration and fun to even bigger audiences with some amazing new partners joining Google as collaborators and backers.”

Niantic is best known for Ingress, a role-playing game in which people around the world use their Android (and, more recently, iOS devices) and the Ingress software to explore a fictional world in which aliens are real. “It’s happening all around you,” a tagline on the website reads. “They aren’t coming. They’re already here.”

The idea is that certain objects in cities around the world actually have significance to aliens and you can see and interact with some of this extraterrestrial matter via the Ingress augmented reality app on your smartphone. Players are separate into two opposing teams.

So far, the game has been free to play, but users were quick to voice concerns on Google+ about whether Niantic Labs would keep its flagship game free now that it’s heading into the world as an independent company. Niantic hasn’t addressed those concerns yet, and the Ingress website remains unchanged today.