Google, This Is Getting Pretty Weird [The Niantic Project]

    November 7, 2012
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Last week, we reported on Google’s mysterious Niantic Project. “What is that?” you may ask. Good question. That’s kind of the point. Above all else, it appears to be some kind of viral attention-getting campaign for something Google is up to.

Update: Here’s a follow-up (h/t: reddit).

Google’s Niantic Labs recently launched the Field Trip App for Android. It was described as “your guide to the cool, hidden, and unique world around you.” The clues Google has shared about the Niantic Project would fit in with that kind of thinking. For example, the Niantic Project posted this:

While the project doesn’t seem to have picked up too much viral steam yet (that video has less than 1,000 views as of the time of this writing, and the endeavor is getting next to zero media coverage).

Since our previous article on The NIantic Project, there have been various updates to the site, and from its Google+ and Twitter accounts:

Niantic Project

As spooky as a graveyard at midnight. And profoundly cool. We call it the New Ideas Agency.

Tuning ADA
Tuning ADA – 11/3/2012
Niantic Project

A video, something to do with a 'tuning session.' 

Looks interesting, but not sure what to make of it, all I know is it connects to the ADA stuff from yesterday.

Alice is not alone… I wonder if we all might be "falling down a very deep well…"

Rabbithole – 11/4/2012
Niantic Project

Today: An NIA internal memo, heavily redacted, but not enough to prevent some interesting ideas from getting through.

Shaper Portals? Threats and Opportunities? 

Take a look and see what you can read between the lies…

Threats and Opportunities
Threats and Opportunities – 11/5/2012

Oh, and there’s a another video:

Does Google want us to think whatever this is about is something that’s going to invade our privacy?

It’s worth noting that the first video was uploaded to YouTube on October 3, with the description:

Hey… this is my first video, I don’t normally do this kind of stuff, but I was so seriously ticked off at this stupid phone I just had to vent….

Anyway the phone is acting weird. When I’m out on the street (I’ve noticed it happens a lot near statues) the phone starts glitching. I’ve captured the behavior, if you have any ideas on with is going on, your advice would be really appreciated…. Thanks!

And that the second video was uploaded all the way back in July, with the description:

I took apart the phone. There was not much to lose, it was really not going to get any worse, right?

Some major surprises inside. Found a chip with an N on it, and some research led me to something called ‘Niantic’. Prototype? I think yes!

Some other items now appearing on the Niantic Project site:

Niantic Project

Niantic Project

What is the Niantic Project? Are lives in danger?

In all seriousness, I’m starting to get the feeling this is game-related.

  • Ke nny

    It’s either a game or media (tv, movie) related. Unless it’s the aliens.

  • Zaephor

    Looks like an Augmented Reality Game, if you pause the top video when he’s holding it up to the statue it has “upgrade” and “recharge” buttons in the software. Also worth spotting were the “portal” and “resonator” labels on the screen.

    Originating from Google and the device by proximity to objects, I’d guess it’s a ARG using the near field communication tech in the latest Android phones. Perhaps some sort of invasion game where cultural landmarks might be resource points.

    • N1-n-Done

      I doubt it would even need NFC, Google Goggles can identify landmarks with just a picture. Even better when you add in GPS. Maybe the ARG is linked to Google Goggles and all we need to do is snap a pic of the right landmark to get a link to the next clue.

  • Bill

    One of the crossed-out documents on the niantic project website talks about a “Shaper Mind Virus” and talks about possibly testing members of the research team.

    Yeah, I agree, this is getting pretty weird…

    • jt

      indeed, its genuinely freaking me out and im glad im not the only one who could make that out.

  • Bran Bal

    I think it’s the next Cloverfield.

  • Anon

    Looks like google might have hired this guy. Relevant part at 4:05.

  • Joshua Walker

    Weird photos on the video uploader’s Google Plus account, too: https://plus.google.com/u/0/100845558813143264405/photos

  • Red

    A desperate attempt to get people to remember that they have a social media site perhaps?

  • wyndham

    the puzzles at the bottom of the “what does this mean” are cryptoquips. the most recent one on the site decodes to: “Shapers, like any other parasite, always new host in order to expand their kingdom. there’s one law you can hang your hat on, everywhere. every form of life wants to thrive.”

  • Dean K

    Did anyone notice the similarity in design to the stuff that flashes on the screen looks kind of similar to the rewardwire.org UI. Also the guy in the suit behind him looks like an Observer kind of =P I know it’s a total stretch but would be awesome if it was some kind of Fringe related thing =P

  • AbsoluteFatKid

    The code on the second picture says ‘+5 “Every operation reaches a risk-assessment stage. At this point, my determination is that Niantic is causing more trouble than it is worth.”‘

  • B. Lumbergh

    So if you could post a TLDR when this is all over that would be great, mmmk..

  • N1-n-Done

    Ok I’m a little hooked now….did some looking at the pictures from the G+ page with Google Goggles.

    First one with the statue is Zurich Main Station, Zurich, Switzerland, no street view data.

    Goggles are stumped by the odd structure picture.

    Devra Bogdanovich also has a G+ page

  • Matth

    One of the pictures (the employee card) from the device’s contents is photoshopped from istockphoto:

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