|Developer||Technical Illusion, Inc.|
|Released||Developers: 22 November 2014
Consumers: Q4 2015
|Price||400 USD (pre-order)|
|Weight||less than 100 g|
|Controls||gaze, inertial, controller|
CastAR are augmented reality smartglasses developed by an augmented reality hardware and software US company Technical Illusions, a spin-off company founded by former employees of Valve Corporation Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson in 2013. Apart from the augmented reality features, it can also virtually embed visual elements in the real world based on what the user is looking at (see Main characteristics). The company plans to focus on the social aspects of gaming, and streamlining the experience of using the device so everyone can "open the box, put on the glasses and play." There are separate teams working on virtual experiences for the device, mainly a boardgame, surgery simulation, and a "Star Trek holodeck-like" experience.
The reason the company has chosen augmented reality of full virtual reality is that, by the opinion of the company's CEO, and the co-founder, augmented reality fits in the way people already play. In the interview for Geeks of Doom, the company leadership discussed their idea of "shared personalised environment."' This shared space is a combination of virtual and actual environment around the user but tailored to the individual users. In the sense of an augmented reality boardgame, this means that individual players see the game elements only relevant to them, e.g. a war game's fog of war can be different to different players.
Unlike other devices of this type, CasAR does not project the visual information directly onto the glasses or into the user's eyes, but rather project it onto a retro-reflective sheet which then reflect the image back onto the polarized glasses. The combination of a stereoscopic image and a head-tracking sensor then help to achieve the sense of depth. In addition, the reflective surface features an RFID tracking grid. This allows the items equipped with RFID tags to be recognized by the device and to be used as gaming tokens for example.
The company successfully funded the project via Kickstarter on 15th November 2013, collecting over 1 million USD. The company plans to use the funds to make the device smaller, better looking, and add an augmented reality boardgame to the package. Android creator Andy Rubin's investment company Playground Global invested 15 million USD into CastAR in August 2015.
The device is an augmented reality head-mounted display that has to be connected to a computer for processing and creating the visual information via an HDMI cable. CastAR is equipped with two 72O pixels resolution 120 Hz micro-projectors built-into the top of the frame of the glasses, one for each eye. These project the visual information on a retro-reflective surface that supplies the role of a gaming board. A camera in between the projectors scans the surface for infrared markers to track the head position of the wearer and the software adjusts the projected image accordingly. The nature of the retro-reflective surface allows the players to view only the visual information relevant to them, and from their own perspective. Custom software that the user has installed on their computer as well as an Altera Cyclone FPGA video processing chip in the device handle creation and processing the visual information.
CastAR features custom controller called Magic Wand that separately tracks its movement in three dimensions allowing the manipulation of the virtual elements which it recognized by its in-built camera in a similar way the glasses do. The company also offers a VR clip-on that can be attached to the glasses and acts as a reflective screen by itself, thus eliminating the need of having a retro-reflective surface sheet for the glasses to display virtual elements.
Software development kit is available on the device's discussion forums.
The goal of CastAR is to offer accessible and easy to use augmented reality entertainment device. The current goal is to create an augmented reality boardgame that supports multiple players. Future goals entail enterprise, medical and industrial applications.
Company & People
- David Henkel-Wallace - Chief executive officer
- Jeri Ellsworth - Chief Hardware Engineer
- Rick Johnson - Chief Software Engineer
- September 2013 - CastAR announced
- 14 October 2013 - Kickstarter campaign begun
- 15 November 2013 - Kickstarter successfully finished
- 22 November 2014 - First shipment of developer models
Ethical & Health Issues
There are no ethical or health issues connected to this particular device. For more general issues connected with smartglasses, please see the Smartglasses synopsis.
Enhancement - The developers of CastAR market the device towards players who wish to enjoy augmented reality entertainment (e.g boardgames enhanced with virtual elements) easily and socially. The device is thus clearly defined as a form of entertainment enhancing piece of technology. However, the team behind CastAR is already looking into educational and medical applications. This means that CastAR could be used in therapy or treatment in the future as well.
Public & Media Impact and Presentation
There are no detailed reviews as of yet because the device is still in the prototype phase and only a small number of early supporters have access to the development version of the device. However, the media coverage exists, although it cannot be compared to media coverage of devices made by big corporations such as Google or Microsoft.
In an Engadget article, the author compares the original prototype model of CastAR shown at the Game Developers Conference in March 2014 to more recent version (October 2014) and calls the newer prototype "cleaner and refined" and "having a brighter, crisper image." Technology website Gamer Nexus published an article describing them testing the device during a demo at the developer's offices. The author praises being able to move around the virtual but also mentions slight discomfort after using the device and compares it to his experience after watching full feature 3D films. He also criticized the current design of the device and calls it "less-than-beautiful." Gizmodo called CastAR quirky. These comments about progress being made on the prototype are shared throughout the articles that mention CastAR. There are small concerns about the image quality, an article on the website GeekDad called it "washed out" but were assured the company works on making the visuals substantially better.
The overall reception has been so far positive. Mentioned media outlets are excited about the possibilities of the device, welcome the progress the company made so far as well as the accessibility of the demoed hardware.
There is no legislation related to this particular device. For more information about policies related to smartglasses, please see the Smartglasses synopsis.
Related Technologies, Projects or Scientific Research
There are no notable projects or research related to this particular device.
- MOON, Mariella. CastAR team ships out first pair of AR glasses, more to follow soon. Engadget [online]. 2014, 23 November. Available online at: http://www.engadget.com/2014/11/23/castar-shipping/ (Retrieved 10 November 2015))
- TAKAHASHI, Dean. Valve spinoff Technical Illusions shows off its Google Glass competitor (interview). VentureBeat [online]. 2014, 7 October. Available online: http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/07/technical-illusions-shows-off-its-developer-version-of-its-castar-augmented-reality-glasses-interview/view-all/ (Retrieved 12 November 2015)
- Shows if the device is a standalone wearable computer or if it needs to be connected to a processing unit to function.
- PAX Prime 2015: castAR Interview. Geeks of Doom [online]. 2015, 9 October. Available online at: http://www.geeksofdoom.com/2015/10/09/pax-prime-2015-castar-interview (Retrieved 12 November 2015))
- TAKAHASHI, Dean. Android creator Andy Rubin invests $15M in CastAR to build augmented reality gaming glasses. VentureBeat [online]. 2015, 19 August. Available online at: http://venturebeat.com/2015/08/19/castar-raises-15m-from-android-creator-andy-rubin-to-build-augmented-reality-gaming-glasses/ (Retrieved 12 November 2015)
- CastAR Main Page http://castar.com/
- LEE, Nicole. CastAR bets big on its augmented reality hardware with move to Silicon Valley. Engadget [online]. 2014, 17 October. Available online at: http://www.engadget.com/2014/10/17/castar-augmented-reality/ (Retrieved 13 November))
- STONE, Patrick. First Look at castAR Augmented Reality Gaming Glasses at PAX. Gamers Nexus [online]. 2015, 31 August. Available online at: http://www.gamersnexus.net/guides/2071-augmented-reality-castar-gaming-glasses-pax (Retrieved 13 November 2015)
- ORF, Darren. CastAR's Vision of Augmented Reality Is Fun for the Whole Family. Gizmodo [online]. 2015, 22 February. Available online at: http://gizmodo.com/castars-vision-of-augmented-reality-is-fun-for-the-whol-1687296087 (Retrieved 13 November)
- LESAUVAGE, Michael. Virtual Experiences: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Cast AR. GeekDad [online]. 2015, 28 October. Available online at: http://geekdad.com/2015/10/oculus-rift-htc-vive-cast-ar/ (Retrieved 13 November)