Mira wants to give iPhone owners their first taste of augmented reality

If you’re looking for ways to stop staring at your smartphone screen — especially when friends are over — augmented reality (AR) may be the solution for you. The tech isn’t anywhere near as good as Iron Man’s heads-up display yet, but a new headset from a company called Mira wants to offer social AR experiences for the masses by creating Prism, one of the first headsets that brings augmented reality to the iPhone.

“Although we’re getting so closely connected in the digital world, it actually brings us a lot further apart in the physical world,” Benjamin Taft, co-founder of Mira, told Digital Trends. “That’s simply because the interface to that world is a screen. It forces us to either focus on the screen or focus on the world around us, and you can’t do both at the same time.”

Augmented reality can change that, Taft said, by digitally enhancing the real world.

The Los Angeles-based startup’s Prism headset doesn’t have any tech inside, but it does use the iPhone in a creative way. The headset houses your iPhone and content is reflected from the phone’s display onto hanging glass that sits in front of your eyes. This allows you to see the person sitting in front of you while still viewing augmented reality content. It’s a unique approach, more like Google Glass than a typical mobile virtual reality headset.

The glass is slightly adjustable, making it easier to stow, and the headband can also be tightened or loosened for a more comfortable fit. The smartphone slides in easily, and there’s a snap sound indicating it has been inserted properly. At launch, the Prism will only work with the the iPhone 6, 6S, and 7, but Mira’s creators tell Digital Trends that support for larger iPhone Plus models and smartphones running Google’s Android operating system, are on the roadmap.

The Prism uses the iPhone’s display to reflect “stereoscopic imaging off the lenses into the user’s eye, so they can perceive objects at depth,” Taft said. Basically, it reflects light from the phone screen into your eyes, and utilizes the smartphone’s accelerometer and gyroscope, as well as the camera, for object tracking and environmental understanding.

It looks sleek, and it’s well-built, but there’s no denying the Prism headset looks like giant safety goggles meant to be worn in a laboratory or a construction site. I got to try it on, and while it was comfortable, it felt a little silly to wear — I would never consider wearing it outside my home or the office. The Prism also comes with a controller that’s very similar to the one Google ships with Daydream View.

The setup process of the Prism was a mini-game, where I controlled a rocket ship and got used to the controller by shooting at asteroids. I could move my ship closer and further away, and I rotated in my chair a full 360-degrees to find and destroy all the rocks. The social aspect is easy to discern — the Prism allows you to see other people around you, while also allowing them to see you, and what you’re doing. It’s also easy for another person with a Prism headset to connect to yours and join in on a game, and if you don’t have the headset, all you need is the Mira app to participate with your smartphone’s camera via the Spectator mode.

Mira hopes Prism will bring augmented reality technology to the masses, like how Google introduced VR to a lot of people with Cardboard VR. There’s two key parts Mira believes it needs to be successful — the price of the headset, and content. The Prism will cost $100, and though that’s a lot more money than Google Cardboard, it’s equal to or similar to the prices of mobile VR headsets like Samsung’s Gear VR or Google’s Daydream View.

Mira Prism

Content is also important, and it’s partly why the Mira team is situated in LA. Launch apps will focus on 360-degree content, but ultimately the team is looking to “enable walk-around, room-scale experiences,” Matt Stern, co-founder of Mira, said. Mira is developing some content, but the company is primarily working with third-party studios to create content for Prism owners. AR app developers utilizing Apple’s ARKit will also be able to easily port over their app to work with the Prism, as the Software Development Kit is built in Unity.

Some of the first content we’ll see for the Prism are tabletop games, and the company said it will be making some content partnership announcements at Comic-Con this week.

The Prism is available for pre-orders now, but the headset will ship to developers in August and September. Mira will continue working with developers and content creators throughout the fall, and the Prism will ship to consumers close to the holiday season.

Mobile

5G is the swift kick VR and AR gaming needs to come to fruition

There's a lot of hype surrounding augmented reality and virtual reality, but is it really the next big thing? We take a look at where the new mediums stand, as well as how 5G is poised to help them break into the mainstream.
Computing

Microsoft might launch the HoloLens 2 this weekend. Here's how to watch it live

It is widely believed that Microsoft's WMC conference will be the stage for the unveiling of the next generation of its HoloLens mixed reality headset. We have the live stream right here.
Virtual Reality

HTC Vive Focus Plus makes it easier for developers to port PC content

HTC Vive has announced the Vive Focus Plus headset. The upgraded stand-alone headset makes use of "six degrees of freedom" support in controllers for a PC-like virtual reality experience.
Computing

The HoloLens 2 will be announced at MWC. Here's what we know about it so far

The HoloLens 2 is ripe for an announcement. Here's what Microsoft has revealed so far, what's likely in store for the next generation HoloLens, and everything that we know about this mixed reality headset.
Mobile

Smartwatch sales soared in 2018, with Apple leading the charge

The NPD Group, a market research organization, has reported smartwatch sales soared in 2018. Apple is leading the charge, but it's clear there's still room in the market for competitors, as Samsung and Fitbit also did well.
Mobile

North Focals smartglasses discount cuts the price by a massive $400

Canadian startup North is hoping smartglasses will be the next big wearable. After announcing its new Focals smartglasses in late 2018, the company opened product showrooms in Brooklyn and Toronto and has made its first shipment.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Wearables

Focals succeed where Google Glass fumbled (but do we really need smartglasses?)

It’s been seven years since Google took the wraps off Google Glass. Now, we’re finally getting a modern-day equivalent we want to wear. North’s Focals combine subtle style with an intuitive interface to craft smartglasses you’ll…
Mobile

These 13 gadgets walk a fine line between ingenious and insane

The annual avalanche of devices and gadgets is astounding, but how many will succeed? A few are destined to spark new trends, while the majority fade deservedly into obscurity. We look at some gadgets on the border of brilliant and bonkers.
Deals

Amazon slashes prices on Fitbit Versa smartwatches for Presidents’ Day

Amazon is offering a solid $30 discount on this great fitness tracking smartwatch right now. So if you're looking for a wearable that can help you track steps, sleep, and activity, now is a great time to pick one up for less.
Deals

This discounted smartwatch is a cheap Apple Watch or Fitbit Versa alternative

The Amazfit Bip isn't an Apple Watch or Fitbit Versa, but at the discounted price of $67, it's a very affordable alternative packed with useful features. With built-in GPS and 30-day battery life, this cheap smartwatch is a great option to…
Deals

Amazon cuts prices on the Apple Watch Series 3 for Presidents’ Day

The Apple Watch Series 3 is seeing the same price cut we saw during the Amazon sale just last week. So if you're hoping to pick up an Apple Watch for less than $250, this $50 discount from Amazon can make that happen for you.
Deals

It’s time to check out the best Apple Watch deals for February 2019

The Apple Watch has surged to prominence in recent years. If you're in the market for an iOS wearable, we've sniffed out the best Apple Watch deals available right now for all three models of this great smartwatch.
Emerging Tech

Hong Kong’s vision for a smart prison is a full-blown Orwellian nightmare

Hong Kong wants to bring prisons up to date by introducing new location-tracking wristbands for inmates, and a robot arm whose job is to comb through poop on the lookout for contraband.