This was invented to be the year of virtual actuality. It kinda was, but it mostly wasn’t, if you judge by how much it actually penetrated the majority.
VR still has plenty of obstacles to overcome, one of them being that it’s difficult to get a honest VR experience on the world’s most popular Smartphone, the iPhone. Most audience aren’t much better than Google Cardboard, and no matter how good they are, using them for augmented reality, where the viewer uses the iPhone’s camera to give you a mixed-reality experience, is pretty much garbage.
Here’s where Occipital saw a big opportunity. The startup created its formation Sensor iPad accessory particularly to take detailed, real-time scans of a room. It occurred to the creators that if they built the sensor into a VR headset, that headset would have room-scale VR powers along the lines of the HTC Vive, where virtual objects are not only mixed with the real world, but can also interact with the viewer and the environment on the fly.
Enter the Bridge. At first glance, it looks like one of the many no-name VR headsets you can get on Amazon: it’s white with black straps, with a door in front that fits an iPhone 6 or 6S. Then you see the oblong sensor array protruding from the front.
Using a demo app powered by Occipital’s “Bridge Engine” software, the Bridge starts by scanning the environment you’re in. Once that’s done, the room appears on your screen, just as it would in reality, except the iPhone only shows the parts of the room you’ve scanned.
The unscanned parts are left as a gray void. It’s a little weird, and I’d favor keeping unscanned parts “live” on the screen (that is, taking the view directly from the camera), but I get why they’re not there.
Occipital has created a robot character, named Bridget that can interact with you and the room. Tell Bridget to fetch a virtual object and she’ll go get it, avoiding real-world furniture along the way.
You can tell her to seek out a power outlet for recharging (she doesn’t really recharge, of course), and she’ll get sad if physical objects get in her way.
With the Bridge, Occipital wants to use its sensor tech to catapult into a leadership position in VR, at least as far as the iPhone is concerned. It’s a smart, if riskily ambitious strategy.
With Samsung and Google dominating the conversation on Android and Oculus and HTC locking up the high end, that leaves the iPhone as the last major frontier for VR to conquer.
Since Apple has been silent on the matter, it’s fundamentally a free-for-all. And Occipital’s Bridge looks like a strong candidate to be the defining VR experience for iPhone.