CastAR: The Augmented And Virtual Reality Triple-Threat

Hands-On With The CastAR HD Prototype

While Technical Illusions didn’t have a booth on the floor at CES 2014, the company was holding private meetings to show off its new HD glasses prototype. Only completed four days before the show, it was still very much engineering in the raw, hot glue gun warts and all. It also lacked many of the features added during the Kickstarter campaign, such as positional audio and gyroscopic tracking.

We were able to meet with Jeri and Rick, go hands-on with the HD glasses, and even interview them about the technology we were experiencing for the first time.

Technical Illusions CastAR CES 2014 Part 1

We also got to see the first milestone in miniaturizing the castAR’s electronics, going from a big control box to a little two-chip circuit board.

The Original CastAR Control BoxThe Original CastAR Control Box

The next step is to shrink it again before the company delivers its first 70 to 80 developer units, of which we were shown a mock-up. Technical Illusions then plans to refine the glasses before shipping out Kickstarter units in 2014, followed by final commercial units in 2015.

New Two-Chip CastAR Control BoardNew Two-Chip CastAR Control Board

So now you know how the castAR glasses were developed, but we still haven’t explained how they work or how they differ from other AR glasses, such as Meta’s Pro and Google Glass. It's difficult to describe in words or demonstrate through video what using castAR is actually like. However, you can at least watch Marcus trying them out.

Technical Illusions CastAR CES 2014 Part 2

We did our best to show what Marcus was seeing by videoing the laptop screen driving the glasses. Naturally, that doesn't capture what it's like to try them on. The only way to truly experience castAR is to don the technology yourself. Technical Illusions' Kickstarter video comes as close as you're going to get.

CastAR Kickstarter Demo

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  • Someone's been trigger happy with the hot-glue gun.
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  • Wait, so will this be better than Oculus Rift? I'm really curious now.
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  • This is pretty neat!Back when I was a kid in the '90s my dad use to work for a company that made 3D scanners, and I had the opportunity to follow him one day to go repair a scanner at a college. While there the college students kept me entertained with a system kind of similar to this. It was based on a stereoscopic rear-projection screen, and a set of head tracking polarized glasses. It was pretty cool, and I have been very supprised that we have not seen much like it until now.The other cool thing was that rather than a big funky wand, you basically had 2 handheld devices with buttons under each finger in order to interact with the enviornment. One button would allow you to grab and move an object, another would allow you to rotate, others would bring up context menus, or 'in game' options. It was all really neat.Anywho, the big thing that it was missing (other than good graphics... it was the '90s after all) was the ability to have a multiple users. With multiple users interacting on the same playing field like this new AR can do, it makes for some much more interesting gameplay.I really hope that things like VR and AR are able to take off. When I was a kid I was promised that I could go live in space, and that we would have holodecks available... so far we are 0 for 2, but I would be pretty happy if we could get one or the other off the ground.
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  • 1419379 said:
    Wait, so will this be better than Oculus Rift? I'm really curious now.


    Certainly not 'better' in the way of quality. The nice thing about Oculus Rift is that you have a much more controlled enviornment, and are able to surround yourself with a virtural world while blocking out reality. This system is meant to open up more social or alternative styles of gameplay. Much more flexible in what it can do... but it will necessarily always have drawbacks because the environment is less controlled. Ambient light can wash out your characters, resolution on projectors vs a screen are always going to suffer more from things like the screen door effect, and it is much more difficult to cram 2 high resolution projectors in the same space as a single high res monitor.

    So it is one of those things where you win some and you loose some. I think the Oculus Rift will have much more of a following for hard core gamers, and even myself as a moderate gamer. But the Rift will always suffer in the popular market because (as is the great secret of Nintendo) people, especially kids (or parents of those kids), enjoy more social games. Things that block reality out have a very difficult time gaining traction. But something like this AR would offer more social interaction. Essentially high tech board and card games, or some sort of choose your own adventure games. I could just imagine something like Warhammer, or D&D being played like this where you can throw down a card or a token and have a 3D character on the field of battle. Or better yet, combine UI hardware like this with a content creator like Project Spark in a school setting to engage students in cooperative programming and game environments!

    At any rate, you loose out on quality, but you have the potential to gain in other ways which could be much more interesting than the Rift. Very different devices aimed at very different uses and markets.
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  • Beside D&D and board games that have been mentioned in the article,and I add TCG(Trading card games,like Yu-gi oh and infinity wars),I think other things too will be much fun.For example,by adding kinect,you can play a fighting game,seeing your opponent in front of you,and with kinect monitoring your body actions,you hit or block AI fighter,like real fights.I think it would be very useful in learning martial arts.
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  • Beside D&D and board games that have been mentioned in the article,and I add TCG(Trading card games,like Yu-gi oh and infinity wars),I think other things too will be much fun.For example,by adding kinect,you can play a fighting game,seeing your opponent in front of you,and with kinect monitoring your body actions,you hit or block AI fighter,like real fights.I think it would be very useful in learning martial arts.
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  • Wondered how long it would take Tom's to mention this tech gear.
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  • Off topic and no one will care butI find that dev girl very cute hehe
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  • Off topic and no one will care butI find that dev girl very cute hehe
    -1
  • darn I forgot that you CANNOT hit refresh on Toms pageGuys at Tom... can you fix that stupid bug where it double post your comment if you ever hit F5 once you post somethingShould be already fixed... I mean you are a a tech website are you not??!!?
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  • "Although the pair no longer worked at Value..."That is one weird typo.
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  • Comparing Cast AR to the Oculus Rift is interesting. The OR is regarded as having an advantage when full immersion is desired. The wide FOV and low latency of the OR work well together to reduce motion-induced nausea which has been one of the biggest impediments to widely adopted VR. Eye fatigue is likely to still be a problem with the Rift, however. I've experienced wide FOV VR with several hours of use with a Sensics system an it is a remarkably cool experience. However, full visual immersion still has some drawbacks in the user-interface and this can disrupt immersion or leads to a limited experience. Without very accurate hand/finger tracking, controls are best limited to a "HOTAS" (or HOMAK--Hands-On-Mouse-And-Keyboard) mentality. This creates a burden for the application designer, needing to create an abstraction of the control or environment that maps to the HOMAK/HOTAS input devices. A poor abstraction can be trivially accomplished, but a good controls abstraction requires some serious savvy. A Kinect type interface can simplify some of this in certain situations, but overall, the user is left grasping at air once the hands come off the main controls. And walking about with another player also in VR? Please empty the room of all obstacles and invest in some good body tracking software.What CastAR offers is a greatly simplified interface considerations with AR objects (and players!) that can match our real-world expectations. Need to move an AR game piece? Reach out, pick it up and place it where you want it. Need to flip some switches? Slide levers? Thump on a faulty needle gauge? Reach out and do it. Need to move from the pilot cockpit seat to the back-facing gunner's seat? Get up, turn around, walk to the other seat and sit down. Need to touch other players for some reason? Reach over and touch them. (Yeah, what games are there that have you touch another real-life player? None, yet, but if someone wants to develop one, CastAR is the obvious choice over any fully immersive HMD.)CastAR technology may beg us to redecorate our rooms with grey shiny cloth, but it won't ask us to rip ourselves out of the immersive environment just to find the mouse that fell on the floor, or to check on the odd sound that might be the cat coughing up a hairball, or because we've got an eye-fatigue induced migraine after 45 minutes of gaming. What CastAR is offering is something far beyond the simple and very limited world of HMD-based VR. It is offering to replace a great deal of user-interface mojo with naturally intuitive interactions. Immersion isn't just about visuals, it is about meeting a user's intuitive expectations instead of having to remember which keystroke accomplishes which simple actions. VR HMDs are to visuals what surround sound is to mono. But the applications CastAR has the potential to offer can break down the fourth wall and create accessibility to users far beyond immersive VR. CastAR will allow us to integrate the real world into our games, not as an intrusion on immersion, but as an augmentation to the game environment. (See what I did there?) Any software developers aiming strictly at VR are being short-sighted in the extreme.
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  • I think there are merits to both types of technology but I agree with another comment that this tech is going to follow a similar success story as Wii - it appeals more directly and immediately to the younger market. I think it could end up being very successful if implemented properly - think about having an entire room outfitted to take advantage of this for team-based games like LOL for example. It could be very interesting indeed. The future looks exciting!
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