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CastAR reportedly shut down

Just under 70 jobs lost as augmented reality start-up led by former Valve employees closes

Reports suggest CastAR is no more, with scores of employees laid off and a remaining few trying to sell the company's technology.

Polygon claims it was informed of the closure by multiple former staff members, who report less than 70 people have been made redundant across the firm's two offices: its headquarters in Palo Alto and development studio Eat Sleep Play in Salt Lake City. The latter has allegedly been shut down completely.

A "core group of employees" is apparently trying to sell the augmented reality technology that CastAR had been working on. Everything else is being liquidated.

The report suggest the shutdown stemmed from a lack of finance. Key investor Playground Global declared it would not be pouring any more capital into the company last week, and a round of Series B funding failed to attract any other investors. As a result, CastAR has been forced to close its doors.

The company was formed by two former Valve employees, Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, back in 2013 and was originally known as Technical Illusions. It specialised in augmented reality, based on research Ellsworth and Johnson had done at Valve and take forward with Valve's permission, and would have resulted in CastAR releasing its own brand of AR glasses.

Since it first started, CastAR has made several significant hires - not the least of which was the entirety of Eat Sleep Play, the new studio formed by ex-Avalanche employees after Disney chose to cease production of its Disney Infinity toys-to-life range. CastAR also employed former LucasArts president Darrel Rodriguez and Disney veteran Steve Parkis.

We spoke to Ellsworth and Johnson back at GDC 2016, who were still confident that augmented reality has just as much potential as virtual reality and kept them away from VR's "arms race for the number of pixels".

CastAR began life with a Kickstarter to fund its project, earning over $1m from almost 4,000 backers. Interestingly, two years later it announced plans to refund anyone that pledged enough to receive the CastAR hardware - while still offering them a free consumer unit.

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James Batchelor

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James Batchelor has been a journalist in the games industry since 2006, joining GamesIndustry in 2016, and also runs Non-Violent Game of the Day (@NVGOTD). He does play violent games, but always on Story/Easy mode.