Ex-Valve devs launch castAR Kickstarter

Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson seeking $400,000 to build virtual reality/augmented reality glasses

An abandoned piece of Valve hardware may yet find its way to market. Technical Illusions today launched a Kickstarter campaign for the castAR glasses, a virtual reality and augmented reality system that co-founders Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson had been working toward during their previous jobs at Valve.

The castAR system is driven by a pair of glasses with two micro-projectors, one above each eye. The system also relies on a highly reflective surface that bounces the light from the projectors back at the viewer, and an active shutter system on the glasses to make sure each eye is only seeing the image from the corresponding projector. The glasses also have a camera scanning for infrared markers on the surface, which adds head tracking capabilities to the system. Optional add-ons include virtual reality clip-on lenses and a wand that serves as an input device for users to interact with their virtual worlds.

Ellsworth and Johnson are looking to raise $400,000 to bring castAR to market. They already have functional prototypes of the castAR technology which won Editor's Choice and Educator's Choice awards at both the New York and Bay Area Maker Faires earlier this year. The goal now is to improve size, power consumption, software support, and ergonomics for the final product.

Backers who pledge $189 will receive a starter kit containing the glasses and reflective surface with an estimated delivery date of September 2014. A bundle with the controller and VR clip-on as well will run backers $285. Technical Illusions has also created a "Pledge Calculator" that lets backers specify how many of each component they want, and then tells them how much they need to contribute to receive them.

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Latest comments (5)

Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
Is there any real market for this? AR is the next 3D fad and VR is the fad that keeps coming back every decade but never catches on. To me it all comes down to practicality. I couldn't see myself using any type of glasses for an extended period of time to play games or watch tv/movies. And I'm guessing that I'm not alone in that sentiment. As long as there are goofy glasses to wear I don't see any of these products ever taking off.
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@Paul - it may be a little specious to say:
...VR is the fad that keeps coming back every decade but never catches on...
For one thing VR has only tried to be established back in the 90's - not "every decade" - and with the technology growth it is fair to say that we are at a point where the promise could be delivered... only just saying.

I can understand the reticence by the consumer console game trade to technology that could shift the status-quo - or could offer a non-console opportunity.
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Petter Solberg Freelance Writer & Artist, 5 years ago
@Paul: I'm sure you're not alone in that sentiment. However, if the experiences provided are unique and immersive, I think most people will be more than willing to wear funny glasses. People have been getting used to gamepads over the years, which are only useful for certain type of games. It takes hours to train your muscle memory to learn a few commands that are translated into simple movements on the screen. What's really the practicality in that?

This being said, AR/VR really has to work this time around for me to get involved. While CastAR seems to have some great ideas, it's the kind of thing I need to really see for myself before buying. I imagine there must be some issues with light levels?
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Paul Jace Merchandiser 5 years ago
@Kevin--You are correct. 3D is the fad that comes back every decade, not VR. Still, I don't have any higher hopes for VR now than I did back in the 90's. Even with better tech I'm not even remotely interested in it. But I don't even know if I'm in their targeted demographic. There are many levels of success but I don't see something like this moving beyond a niche market of tens or even hundreds of thousands sold. Can it sell a million or more? Possible but highly doubtful.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Paul Jace on 16th October 2013 12:54am

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Shane Sweeney Academic 5 years ago
Augmented Reality will be huge eventually.
This is a great short film about the possibilities. Digital Street Art is one of my large interests in it. Let alone custom tourism applications to help explore cities.
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