Occipital Announces 'Bridge', A Mixed Reality HMD For iPhone

Occipital announced a new mixed reality headset called Bridge that offers inside-out, room-scale, 6-degrees-of-freedom (6DoF) tracking. A limited Explorer Edition of the HMD is available now and will ship on December 16; the product is expected to make its official debut some time in March 2017.

Bridge is an extension of Occipital's Bridge Engine for AR/VR/MR (XR) content. The engine allows developers to create realistic virtual objects that can adapt to real-world surroundings by casting shadows, hiding behind various aspects of the environment, and interacting with the physical objects around them. The Bridge HMD accomplishes this by combining Occipital's Structure Sensor with an iPhone camera to juxtapose the digital world over the physical one.

Occipital didn't start out in XR. The Structure Sensor was originally meant to be used to create 3D scans of real-world objects that could be digitally manipulated. Then it repurposed the device for virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality. In September, it released a prototype HMD to let developers experience the Bridge Engine for themselves. Finally, it's turned the whole shebang into an XR headset that anyone can purchase.

The Bridge HMD can also use its position tracking for VR experiences. Occipital says that existing software "can be updated in minutes to use our inside out tracking and collision avoidance tech" using a simple Unity plugin. The whole thing is about convenience. It doesn't rely on an expensive PC, it switches between XR and VR with a simple toggle, and it doesn't require setting up any cameras or other equipment to get room-scale tracking to work.

Occipital said the Bridge HMD has a resolution of 1334 x 750, a 60fps refresh rate, and a 10ms response time between its camera seeing something and its software recognizing the pose. The headset is essentially a holster for an iPhone 6, 6s, or 7 that also has a Structure Sensor to support XR content. It can also be updated with a new "door" meant to make it so the whole HMD doesn't have to be repurchased whenever Apple releases a new product.

The Explorer Edition costs $499 and includes the Bridge HMD, a Structure Sensor, a single-button controller, and a Bridge Controller that will ship on "a later date." (You get a fre t-shirt, too.) This bundle is limited, and only 390 were still available at press time. But the consumer version of the Bridge HMD can also be pre-ordered now--it costs $399 and includes a headset, Structure Sensor, and Bridge Controller. There's no limit to how many units can be ordered.

This is not the first time we've seen this tech on a standard smartphone--for example, Dacuda showed off its version of inside-out 6DoF tracking earlier this year, and the Impression Pi promises the same--and it certainly won't be the last. We expect to see more at CES in January.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.