Occipital is an extremely clever product which mounts onto the camera of an iPad to map the environment in 3D. There are countless applications for a mobile device which can sense the world in three dimensions. Homeowners can use it to quickly model a room with precise dimensions and experiment with different furniture arrangements. Game developers can use it to place virtual objects which interact with real-world environments. All of this is made possible because Occipital is participating in a trend of open source hardware which is changing the way that startups operate. They focus on creating a stable piece of hardware and rely on the development community to extract its full potential for practical application.
To understand the full impact of open source hardware on consumer electronics, think back to CES 2012. That was the first time that developers had a full year to experiment with Microsoft’s Kinect hardware, and its presence was felt throughout the show. Kinect as a gaming device was fun and exciting, but Kinect as a platform for technology development was revolutionary. At the time, development of a Kinect-like sensor prototype was rumored to be around $30,000, or 200 times more than Microsoft’s $149 price tag, so it was a boon to independent developers who couldn’t previously afford to build the component themselves. Kinect-powered devices popped up everywhere – virtual pianos, intelligent skateboards, head-mounted 3D gaming.
This year, companies such as Occipital, Oculus and 3Gear take over as the platforms of choice for third-party developers. These platforms are simple and open, acting as blank canvases for an entire generation of startups. In isolation, they are interesting. Together, they produce one of the most immersive experiences available today.
In one prototype, Occipital maps the environment while 3Gear maps the hands of the user as they pass through the user’s field of vision. This information is then passed back through the Oculus in stereoscopic 3D where it is rendered onto the display within the Oculus headset. Eventually, the ability to see our own bodies interacting with a real environment, all rendered in 3D in real time, has fascinating implications for the gaming industry and beyond.
As you pass by the booths of these open sources pioneers, consider them to be small, but crucial, pieces to a larger puzzle. While the technology giants of the Central Hall battle for supremacy, the most astounding developments are happening right here where smaller companies with a community mindset work in tandem to change the world around us.