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Finding The Bridge iPhone Needs For Virtual Reality

Android boasts a more open operating system than Apple, so they have become the number one go to platform when it comes to virtual reality. Apple has need a hitmaker for some time and they have found it in the Bridge augmented and virtual reality headset. Bridge has been in the making for a while now but they have finally come to the mainstream.

Bridge is in beta 6 stage and has a lot to offer iPhone users getting in on the virtual reality craze. Most standard vr headsets only allow you to watch videos that are pre-made. Bridge has the capabilities to take your experiences so much further. Bridge is built for iphone 6/6s and 7 users for now but will be looking to expand to the newer headsets in the future.

Bridge Engine makes it simple to author and deploy mind-bending mixed reality experiences to the mobile device you already own. Coupled with Structure Sensor’s ability to capture dense 3D meshes of scenes, you can create magical experiences where it’s impossible to tell the virtual from the real.

In some ways, Bridge is a lot like any other mobile VR headset: you snap in an iPhone 6, 6S, or 7; strap it on your head, and enjoy smartphone-powered virtual reality. It even comes with a Bluetooth remote that can handle some motion, similar to what you get with Google’s Daydream VR headset. Bridge is like a mix between Microsoft’s HoloLens augmented reality glasses and the Samsung Gear VR, though it’s priced closer to the latter. Bridge is currently priced at $399.

But what makes Bridge unique is how it integrates Occipital’s first product: the Structure Sensor, a marker-sized strip of cameras and sensors that can map physical objects and environments with incredible levels of detail. The Structure Sensor adds inside-out positional tracking to the headset, allowing people to move around in real space without external cameras or sensors. This means that instead of just sitting in one spot and spinning around, you could actually lean your head and walk around inside a VR game or experience — something that was previously hard to come by in a mobile setting.

One of the things that is supposed to separate Bridge from the other vr headsets out is the operation of mixed reality. “Mixed reality” refers to experiences that mix augmented reality overlays with the immersion of virtual reality — instead of just adding a heads-up display to the world, they actually alter our reality. Occipital uses the iPhone’s camera (with the help of a lens attachment to widen the view) and mixes that video feed with the data from the Structure Sensor to create a 3D stereo view of the room you’re in.

All this means that the Bridge hardware isn’t necessarily sleek or slim. It’s comfortable enough, thanks to semi-rigid straps that help distribute the weight and a bike helmet-style rachet system in the back. But it’s not the most approachable hardware. If Google’s Daydream seems like the perfect headset to wear on the couch at the end of the day, Bridge looks more like the kind of thing you’d wear in the Battle of Endor.

Still, there’s power in being able to move around a room and have it track to what you’re seeing on the headset. To do this previously you had to invest in incredibly powerful desktop PCs, place sensors or cameras around the room, and your headset needed to be wired. Like the many other companies that have recently shown an interest in inside-out tracking, Occipital is betting some people will accept the trade-offs in order to gain access to that freedom.

Occipital’s not alone in identifying this sweet spot between current mobile VR headsets and their souped-up desktop counterparts. Microsoft has been working on HoloLens for a while now. Google’s Tango uses a flat tablet instead of a headset, but it can already handle things like simulated interior decorating. Intel recently unveiled Project Alloy, its own “merged reality” VR headset. And Oculus is working on a new headset that allows for positional tracking, called Santa Cruz. But Santa Cruz is still very much in the prototype phase, Intel isn’t intending to release Alloy commercially, and HoloLens, for now, is prohibitively expensive.

Occipital has an advantage in that Bridge is relatively cheap, more open, and more available than these other platforms. It also has the benefit of being one of the few mobile VR headsets for iPhone that isn’t just folded cardboard or cheap plastic.

Mixing augmented reality with virtual reality and even adding the capabilities to add and manipulate your world is going to guarantee that Bridge is the go to headset for iPhone users until the next big thing takes over.


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