With emerging technologies, the fantasy worlds we experience two-dimensionally, through movies and video games, can now come to life – mingling with reality – before our very eyes. Occipital, based in San Francisco and Boulder, Co., is one of only a handful of companies that have innovated in mixed reality – the merging of real and virtual worlds where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time.
To date, most people know about virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR replaces the real world with a simulated one, while AR enhances the perception of reality by superimposing a computer-generated image that is viewed with the real world as its backdrop.
Adam Rodnitzky, VP of Marketing at Occipital, says – because it’s a tough technology to pull off– not many people have yet had the chance to experience mixed reality.
On the Cutting Edge
“Our products are often cutting edge and, as a result, many of our customers are seeing this type of tech for the first time,” he said. “We started in 2008, with a goal to achieve compelling augmented reality on iPhones and Android phones. At the time, the performance of mobile devices wasn’t yet up to the task of making that happen. We realized that creating a mobile 3D sensor would give us the inputs we needed to achieve it.”
Occipital’s Structure Sensor is the first 3D sensor for mobile devices. When clipped to a compatible mobile device, it captures detailed, full-color 3D scans of objects or people. You can get the measurements in a room in just seconds or play mixed reality games where virtual elements are locked precisely to the real world around you.
Real World Applications
“Three-dimensional sensors aren’t anything new,” Rodnitzky said. “But what we had previously seen was big and not suited to mobile. Structure Sensor works on a smartphone or iPad. Medical professionals use this to measure body parts for orthotics, for example, and it’s useful for plastic surgery … helps people visualize what they’ll look like after a procedure.”
As well as having real-world applications, Structure Sensor also creates immersive experiences – when paired with Bridge – Occipital’s mixed reality headset for the iPhone. With Bridge, virtual characters can enter our world and interact with our environment as if they were really there. Or we can enter and immerse ourselves in a virtual world, while still staying comfortably aware of ours.
Logistics a Key Consideration
No doubt Occipital has made a mark in the world of mixed reality. Its products are now distributed by a network of global resellers. As such, selecting the right shipping partner was a key decision.
“We ship globally and it creates logistical challenges, many of which we don’t want to manage ourselves,” Rodnitzky said. “We had gotten referrals from other companies who had a good experience with DCL. They’ve been good at working with us to make changes on the fly so we’re shipping properly configured products to our customers.”
After the Bridge Headset product launch, Occipital updated part of the design, which required changing a part on the device.
“There are some fulfillment partners that can’t do the short notice special projects that are required when you’re launching a new product,” Rodnitzky said. “DCL worked with us to be sure we changed the part, in every device we had in their inventory, while still meeting our shipping deadline.”
What’s to Come
With a team as creative and motivated as Occipital’s you can count on more cutting edge products to come.
“One of our biggest challenges is finding the time to do all the things we want to do,” Rodnitzky said. “We’re a very ambitious, highly motivated team … always having new ideas for more cutting edge products and pushing the envelope. But we’re meticulous and diligent about building great products. There’s no compromising on the approach.”
Which new technologies Occipital creates next is anyone’s guess. In the meantime, their flagship products are available at structure.io and bridge.occipital.com, as well as retail partners such as Amazon.com and B&H Photo Video.