Once upon a time, Valve was working on a set of future glasses so potent that their impossible fever dream visions would spill onto our tables and floors, like imagination made real. But then they decided that Oculus Rift was more their speed, and the mighty mega-brains in people costumes attached to the project, Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, were let go. The duo, however, decided to treat getting laid off as a slight bump in the road, with the re-christened CastAR resurfacing at Maker Faire earlier this year. And now, as is the natural way of all things that walk this Earth, the AR and VR glasses have gone to Kickstarter.
Yep. That basically looks astounding – especially in terms of versatility. CastAR can apparently do “whoa all my characters/items/internal organs are on a mat right in front of me” augmented reality, Oculus-Rift-style virtual reality, and stuff that straddles the line (for instance, projecting a flight-sim-style game onto a nearby wall and floor). But how does it work? My original supposition was overworked, underpaid (but sadly non-unionized) gremlins, but I guess technology plays some kind of role as well:
“CastAR’s projected augmented reality system is comprised of two main components: a pair of glasses and a surface. The frames of the glasses contain two micro-projectors – one for each eye. Each projector casts a perspective view of a stereoscopic 3D image onto the surface. Your eyes focus on this projected image at a very natural and comfortable viewing distance. A tiny camera in-between the projectors scans for infrared identification markers placed on the surface. The camera uses these markers to precisely track your head position and orientation in the physical world, enabling the software to accurately adjust how the holographic scene should appear to you. The glasses get their video signal through an HDMI connection. The camera is connected via a USB port on the PC.”
It sounds like quite the thing, and it’s already well on its way to receiving funding. As of writing, CastAR’s crowdfunding campaign had already blown past the halfway point of its $400,000 goal in only a day. That’s an extremely encouraging start. At this point, you might want to consider bulldozing your living room to make space for that Holodeck you’ve been planning since you were eight.
If all goes according to plan, hardware should start shipping in September 2014. Do you like what you’re seeing?