Whilst Virtual Reality is still developing as a platform, there are some companies looking beyond. Microsoft, for example, is still working on the Hololens, which will deliver both VR and AR experiences. Magic Leap, while still extremely secretive about their product, are working on Mixed Reality. Combining VR, AR and the real world, some consider this the true future technology. Now, there are even attempts to make it compatible with mobile devices. Occipital, a US-Based Startup, announced their Bridge headset for iPhone. The main selling point here is their propietary Structure Sensor to deliver MR experiences.
What is Bridge?
Occipital’s concept video has both a lot of information and not very much at the same time. What is clear however is that they want to achieve two things. First, create a mobile VR device that has positional tracking. Second, bring higher-end Mixed Reality to a mobile device. Currently, Occipital are still selling the device as a development kit, so how well it manages either task is not clear yet.
For the first task, the stats that Occipital have published are impressive. The sensors are said to have a depth from 40cm to 3.5m, with a precision of about 1%. Considering that Qualcomm’s efforts at AR with Google Tango currently sit at golf-ball accuracy, this is very impressive for a start-up company. However, what is worrying is the framerate. Occipital are promising 30-60 fps, but it’s known that you need to maintain 90 to prevent feelings of nausea. Hopefully the second iteration will fix what particular issue.
Another point is the resolution, which is 640×480. Again, it is still a development kit and because of the positional tracking and 3D sensing it would make sense that processing power will be diverted to achieve this. However, considering the Samsung Gear can reach 2k levels, this is very low. Although, the field of view is reported to be 120 degrees, which is better than what the PC headsets can achieve at this point.
Other than the promise of bringing MR to mobile devices, Bridge comes loaded with other goodies. The explorer edition, which is what Occipital is calling this dev kit, comes with a Unity Plugin. This is to make it easier for developers to make use of the positional tracking. Included in the plugin is a feature called obstacle avoidance, which does what is says on the tin. There are also a number of apps that showcase its MR capabilities. you can place furniture in the real world, or create portals to other dimensions.
Finally, there is Bridget, a virtual robot. This extremely cute virtual pet runs around a real space. Occipital says that Bridget can play fetch and even interact with real-world objects. More sophisticated functions will be added by Occipital down the line. For this reason alone it would be worth giving the Bridge a try.
Currently the headset is priced at S$571, which isn’t cheap. Most of that cost goes into the Structure Sensor, which on its own costs S$542. You can start ordering the headset from Occipital’s headset from their website, but remember this is still intended for developers at this point in time. The headset is designed for iPhone only, and supports the last three generations. It also comes with a bluetooth controller, but there isn’t anything much said about what it’s capabilities are.