Ex-Valve staffers Kickstart castAR 'projected augmented reality' glasses

Remember the augmented reality glasses Valve was reportedly working on last year? The Steam giant ultimately declined to pursue the technology. However, the glasses have made their way to Kickstarter. Ex-Valve staffers Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson are behind the castAR project, which has nearly reached its $400,000 funding goal already. Cue pitch video:

The castAR system splits a stereoscopic 3D image between a pair of 720p micro-projectors mounted to a pair of glasses with active shutter lenses. That image is projected onto a highly reflective visualization surface, producing a "holographic-like" effect. The surface is reflective enough to allow the use of low-power projectors, and multiple castAR users are supposed to be able to view different images on the same surface. Sounds pretty cool.

Tracking is provided by a camera situated on the bridge of the glasses. The camera monitors markers on the visualization surface, and it's supposed to detect movements as small as 0.07 mm at 120Hz. The projectors have a 120Hz refresh rate, too.

For those who prefer a more traditional VR experience, clip-on goggles put the user in a completely virtual world. The goggles also have an augmented reality mode that eschews the projection surface in favor of an overlay for the real world. Technical Illusions, the company formed by Ellsworth and Johnson, calls the surface-based castAR mode "projected augmented reality." And now, the cheesy marketing photo:

Oh my.

Interested Kickstarter backers can pony up for a starter package that includes the castAR glasses and a visualization surface. The Pro package is priced at $285 and includes a larger surface, the AR/VR add-on, and a Magic Wand controller that looks perfect for the next Harry Potter game. There are some accessories for RFID board games and RPGs, as well.

The castAR system sounds interesting, and it looks like a lock for final production. It will join the Oculus Rift and Virtual Retinal Display in what promises to be a diverse crop of head-mounted display alternatives for PC gamers. I can't wait to see how the final versions of all three shake out. Extended game testing will be required, I'm sure.

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