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Google Spins Niantic Labs Out Of Alphabet

There's no "N" in Google's new alphabet, as the company spins off Niantic Labs, the gaming and travel apps developer, into an independent company.
10 Google Milestones: From Stanford Dorm To Alphabet
10 Google Milestones: From Stanford Dorm To Alphabet
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In the wake of a massive company restructuring this week, Google has decided to spin off games developer Niantic Labs, which will become an independent company.

Niantic developed a game called +Ingress, an augmented reality, massive multiplayer online role-playing location-based adventure for Android and iOS mobile devices.

"A mysterious energy has been unearthed by a team of scientists in Europe," the Apple App Store description of the game teases. "The origin and purpose of this force is unknown, but some researchers believe it is influencing the way we think. We must control it or it will control us."

From this setup, players visit well-known landmarks from around the world and can "capture" them for their team. Think of it as a kind of capture the flag on a global scale, all against a science-fiction backdrop.

The move comes just a few days after CEO Larry Page announced a massive corporate restructuring that saw the formation of Alphabet, which will function like a giant holding company with Google falling underneath the new structure.

It remains to be seen what further decisions Page and his team will make regarding the sprawling roster of services and companies that are now under the new umbrella company. However, it's clear that some of this rethinking is already under way, and Niantic no longer fit the new model.

John Hanke, best known for co-founding Keyhole (which later became Google Earth) and for his involvement in Google Street View and Google Maps, founded Niantic in 2010.

"We'll be taking our unique blend of exploration and fun to even bigger audiences with some amazing new partners joining Google as collaborators and backers," Niantic Labs posted on its Google+ page.

The brief post also said the company would look to build on the success of +Ingress, which it said has been downloaded more than 12 million times and has attracted more than 250,000 people to live events around the world.

"Niantic Labs has created some incredibly innovative mobile experiences, like the popular augmented reality game Ingress, while being incubated within Google," a Google spokesman said in a statement emailed to TechCrunch. "They're now ready to accelerate their growth by becoming an independent company, which will help them align more closely with investors and partners in the entertainment space. We're excited to continue supporting them as they bring exploration and fun to even more people around the world."

[Find out why all the changes at Google are good for Android.]

In addition to +Ingress, the company also developed an innovative travel app called Field Trip, which helps users learn about everything from local history to the latest and best places to shop, eat, and otherwise explore.

The users select the local feeds they like and the information pops up on the phone automatically, as you walk to those places. The app can also detect when you're driving and automatically talk about interesting places and experiences in the area.