Earlier this year, Valve employees Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson were fired, and the product they had spent more than a year working on — augmented reality system castAR — was put on ice. However, despite the layoffs, Ellsworth and Johnson were able to reach an agreement with Valve CEO Gabe Newell to continue the castAR project full-time — and they’ve created a Kickstarter campaign for their company, Technical Illusions, to bring the hardware to life.
CastAR is a hybrid AR/VR system that, when worn or clipped onto traditional glasses, produces hologram-like projections into the user’s field of vision. The eye-tracking technology within castAR can enable users to visualize the details of a designated surface, creating an AR experience that is affixed to a certain point, not traveling about the room.
The product itself consists of a lightweight (just 100 grams, OR 3.5 ounces) pair of glasses, embedded with two micro-projectors — one for each eye. The glasses can interact with two proprietary peripherals, a “magic wand” controller to move software elements and an RFID tracking grid that allows the player to place “real world” objects into the scene, like a player piece for Dungeons and Dragons.
But AR is not the only thing that castAR can accomplish. Currently, the device utilizes a clip-on attachment for a “True AR” experience — one that doesn’t require a specialized surface to work on. That same attachment can project VR simulations when connected to a computer, and it’s an area that Technical Illusions is seeking to expand.
The Kickstarter campaign, which launched today, has already received more than $33,000 in pledges (as of this writing). That’s a bit of a ways off from the $400,000 needed to make castAR a reality, but considering Ellsworth and Johnson’s dedication to the project (and superior pedigrees), it’s likely that the hardware is poised to become another blockbuster campaign.