October 15, 2013
castAR Launches 3D Virtual Reality Glasses Via Kickstarter
[ Watch the Video: Augmented Reality CastAR Glasses Move To Kickstarter ]
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe OnlineTwo former Valve Software engineers are attempting to crowdfund an augmented reality device that displays holographic 3D projections through a pair of glasses that immerse users in virtual reality.
The device, dubbed CastAR, is essentially a pair of glasses with sensors and a tiny pair of face-mounted projectors above each eye that display an interactive play field onto a surface. The glasses use the same kind of technology used on some 3D televisions for image depth, and the sensors can track head motion so that the projection changes the perspective of the image. CastAR also provides VR capabilities through a clip-on peripheral to the glasses that directs the images of the projectors over a player’s eyes.
Founders and developers Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson say the project, Technical Illusions, has already raised more than $257,000 of the $400,000 in funding they are seeking using Kickstarter, and they still have more than a month to go.
The team said the idea for the glasses was inspired by Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, in which the android R2-D2 squared off against Chewbacca in a holographic 3D chess-like game.
"It has taken nearly 35 years since the film was released for this technological dream to come to reality, but with castAR, that reality can be yours," wrote Ellsworth and Johnson on the project's Kickstarter page.
The site includes a demo video showing two players with CastAR headgear playing a virtual game of chess, moving pieces with a wand-like controller. Another demonstration shows a solo player using castAR as a flight simulator. Ellsworth and Johnson said the system could also be useful for educational purposes.
The CastAR comes with two peripherals – a Magic Wand controller and an RFID Tracking Grid.
"The Magic Wand is new kind of controller that lets you position things in space and control them with a joystick, all with one hand," the team wrote. "The RFID Tracking Grid allows you to uniquely identify, track, and augment physical objects (such as miniatures, cards, and board game pieces) across the surface."
CastAR’s glasses include a tiny camera between the frames' projectors that tracks the head movements of the user. For now, the camera connects to the PC through a USB port, but mobile versions are currently being developed, the team said.
Once completed, the glasses are expected to weigh less than 100 grams, or slightly more than a pair of traditional sunglasses. Users with prescription lenses can simply place castAR directly on top of their glasses for easy viewing.
Technical Illusions is also offering a variety of developer tool kits, including the CastAR Software Development kit.
Investors interested in the project can contribute as little as $1 through Kickstarter, while a $285 investment includes a Pro Package with the CastAR glasses, Magic Wand, AR & VR Clip-On and other components for the complete set of AR and VR functionality.
“This is a complete package for experiencing projected augmented reality, full virtual reality, and full augmented reality,” the team said.
CastAR creates some potential competition for Oculus VR’s Rift headset, a face-mounted display that also uses head-tracking sensors to provide a 3D virtual-reality experience. However, unlike CastAR, Oculus puts the screen directly in front of the eyes rather than directing projects that sit above them. In other words, Oculus isn't built for AR, while Technical Illusions appears to be focusing solely on its augmented-reality capabilities for the moment.