San Francisco-based Occipital is one of the many companies that wants to bring inside-out tracking to mobile VR, but its means of doing so stands apart from others.
Rather than modding existing headsets with extra cameras, Occipital today announced Bridge, its own mobile headset designed for use with Apple’s iPhone 7, 6, and 6s. The device features its own structure sensor mounted on top of a fairly traditional-looking phone-based headset. Rather than an open slot to allow camera access to the real world, Bridge has an adjustable lens that augments the iPhone camera’s field of view up to 120 degrees.
The result is a headset that hopes to enhance mobile VR with positional tracking — something that everyone from Google to Oculus is also looking to do — and also provide mixed reality experiences, giving users access to the real world and placing virtual objects within them.
On the VR front, Occipital is providing a Unity plug-in with Bridge dev kits, dubbed the Explorer Edition, that will allow creators to implement positional tracking either into new apps or their existing experiences that might have previously been available on iOS with Google Cardboard. It’s also offering its own Bridge Engine, which plays a bigger part in the MR aspect.
The engine maps out the area that the user is in, and can then relay that information to virtual objects and characters. To showcase this, Occipital has created Bridget, a virtual robot that can navigate around obstacles and play games with the user. The company will open source their work on Bridget to help educate developers on MR development.
It’s an ambitious device for sure, but VP of Marketing Adam Rodnitzky described it as “different” from high-end MR systems like HoloLens. He says that the company is working towards the future in which the capabilities of devices like Microsoft’s system are available in mobile-based kits.
So why just iPhone and not other handsets? Rodnitzky said that Apple’s device presented “a number of advantages” for the platform. He cited the phone’s “consistent” form factor, the large number of people that stay up-to-date with the latest version of iOS, and the high-end mobile specs that ensured smooth performance, rather than risking opening up to Android where some users might try and use incompatible phones.
“That’s not to say we won’t support Android some day,” Rodnitzky said. “But for now, we’re focused on iOS.”
Bridge’s Explorer Edition goes on sale next week for $499. It comes with the headset, a bluetooth controller, and the Bridget app. The standard edition is aiming to ship in March next year for $399.