Versions is the essential guide to virtual reality and beyond. It investigates the rapidly deteriorating boundary between the real world and the one behind the screen. Versions launched in 2016 at the eponymous conference dedicated to creativity and VR with the New Museum’s incubator NEW INC.

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Bridge is bringing untethered mixed reality to iPhones

Bridge is bringing untethered mixed reality to iPhones

Mobile virtual reality headsets are a bit of a novelty. And a lot of that has to do with a lack of positional tracking, or a lack of a controller at all—though a few amend the latter. The iPhone, in particular, has been left largely to the wayside as mobile VR has emerged. Apple CEO Tim Cook doesn’t even seem to show an interest in the technology, instead boasting about the potential of augmented reality in his spare time. But Occipital has other plans for the smartphone.

Bridget the Robot scans your real environment.
Bridget the Robot scans your real environment.

The Bridge, a new headset from Occipital, is a device designed specifically for iPhone users. And it even enables that much sought after feature of positional tracking, meaning that now you can walk around within a mobile VR game or app—completely untethered. Which, at first read, might emit worry. After all, with a headset strapped to your face, and maybe no designated empty space that a room-scale PC VR device calls for, how do you see where you’re going? Luckily, the Bridge has a fix for a potentially hazardous scenario, so there’s no outright worries of falling into that shatter-prone glass coffee table.

Bridge is more a mixed reality headset than a VR one

The Bridge also doubles as a mixed reality device, not merely existing as a VR enabler. It scans your environment—potential glass table shattering and all—and notes them in your peripheral, so that you can see the bumps that are in your path. In order to achieve Bridge’s positional tracking and mapping, there has to be an external camera to ground it all. The Bridge has one clamped on at the top, which makes it look like any ol’ head-mounted display if it had a clunky Microsoft Kinect slapped on the top. It looks bizarre, but hey, whatever works to get that positional tracking in.

Save money on flights and just bring Stonehenge to your own apartment.
Save money on flights and just bring Stonehenge to your own apartment.

Courtesy of the camera and the built-in Occipital Structure Sensor (the sensor that uses infrared to scan objects and distances in your environment), the headset can also map over your environment. The Bridge integrates mixed reality features through this hardware. It can spawn portals to other rooms and virtual world. You can play with a cute little robot named Bridget as it navigates the furniture in your home. Or, as in the image above, you can bring virtual recreations of tourist monuments like Stonehenge right into your very living room. Heck, you can even live the IKEA-coveted dream, and visualize through Bridge how new furniture can fit into your home. Mixed reality envisions these possibilities, it’s just a shame it comes at a painfully low, smartphone-burdened resolution (640 x 480).

You can visit Bridge’s website to buy the “Explorer Edition” for Bridge now for $499, or preorder the consumer edition for $399, which releases in March 2017. Photos courtesy of Bridge.

Versions is brought to you by Nod Labs,
Precision wireless controllers for your virtual, augmented and actual reality.
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