December 9, 2016

Google Cardboard has been around for a while.

While the headset brings a decent VR experience at an extremely affordable cost, it can’t come close to delivering an experience such as the HTC Vive or Oculus Rift. Both options deliver head tracking, giving the ability to look around your surroundings in a 360 degree fashion, but the Vive and Rift have something that makes the experience all the more magical: positional tracking.

Enter Bridge VR.

The Bridge is a new virtual reality headset made specifically for iPhone, and helps to deliver a nearly full VR experience at an intermediate price. It uses a special spacial camera on the top of the device to detect where the user has moved in real time, and can use the iPhone’s own camera to deliver a merged reality experience as well. In this way, users can escape to wholly different worlds, or can use their own rooms to add furniture or play games in a real space.

The company producing the Bridge is the same one that created the spacial sensor adapter for the iPad. They are actually using that same module on top of the Bridge headset, and have optimized it to work with the iPhone in particular. It should work with the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7 because they have such similar body types, so you needn’t worry about compatibility if you have a device from the last 3 generations.

The “inside-out” positional tracking present in the headset can create spacial maps of your surroundings, collecting data as you show it new areas. The camera can see objects up to 11 feet away, and even has it’s own battery pack to handle all the power. You also shouldn’t worry about the headset dying, as the team says it can run three to four hours on a single charge.

There are a number of fun little features baked into the Bridge app, such as a small robot that will play with you and guide you around. You can even create small little tears in reality that will bring you into a wholly virtual world. There are a number of things you can do with the headset already, but the company is also launching an open APK so that developers can create their own software to work with the headset.

There are some limitations with this however. The device only sports a resolution of 640×480 for each eye, which is far below the level of clarity available on the Oculus Rift or HTC Vive. This should help quite a bit with keeping your phone full of juice over time, but could pose an issue for those who want a clearer experience. Viewing a phone from mere inches away is much different than using it normally, and even high density Android devices can feel a bit pixelated at times. Regardless, often times the resolution doesn’t matter as much once your brain becomes used to it, so we will have to see how it fares in the real world.

The company will begin selling developer editions of the device this month for about $500, while the consumer edition is set for launch in March for $400.

Are you interested in a device like this? Mixed reality via phone is a great thing, as it can help people decorate their homes and even play fun little games in their free time. We’ll have to see how the Bridge fares once it launches later this month.

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