Update, 11/2/16, 7:20am PT: CastAR's hiring binge continues. The company announced that it's acquired the development team from Eat Sleep Play, "a leading creator of mobile and console game titles." In a press release, CastAR President and COO Steve Parkis said,
“Eat Sleep Play had a 20 year track record of pleasing gamers by contributing to countless top rated console and mobile franchises, from Twisted Metal to Warhawk and more and we are thrilled to have their experienced developers join the castAR Salt Lake City team."
The Year of VR is now. Perhaps 2017 will be the year of mixed reality (or “MR,” or simply “XR” to cover the whole gamut of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed reality experiences): CastAR announced that its “mixed reality gaming and entertainment platform” will finally arrive some time in 2017.
We first got a good long look at CastAR way back at CES 2014. (That article includes an excellent early history of the company and its technology, including its founder's early ouster from Valve.) CastAR is more along the lines of a HoloLens-like projected AR technology than any sort of VR. Like Microsoft, CastAR would pitch itself as “mixed reality,” although its technology appears to be very much dictionary-definition augmented reality.
Although the company has been mostly quiet since that first look, it’s popped up here and there a few times, most notably this summer when it brought in a new CEO (Darrell Rodriguez, former president of Lucas Arts) and a new COO (Steve Parkis, formerly of Disney, Zynga, and Storm8) and opened a mixed reality studio in Salt Lake City bolstered by talented folks from Avalanche Studios.
The announcement that CastAR is coming next year was buried in a press release announcing a trio of hires for the company. New to the company, starting immediately, are Peter Dille, CMO; Mel Heydari, Head of Talent; and Arnie Sen, VP of Engineering.
“Individually they have launched some of the most beloved interactive platforms, recruited Silicon Valley’s most sought-after talent and engineered bleeding-edge technologies across gaming and visual optics. Their expertise scaling across industry giants such as Activision, Sony and Tesla will bolster the organization,” read a press release.
According to the release, Dille played a key role in launching the original PlayStation, PS3, and the PlayStation Network. Heydari filled the same role at TiVo and has worked for Tesla, Twitter, and Google. Sen has put in time with Immersion, Activision, and Aurora Optics, where he helped develop “high precision optical systems,” according to the press release.
It would seem that CastAR has some strong momentum going into the new year. What it doesn't seem to have just yet is many specifics on what it means by "platform." Presumably, the HMD will come to market, but the angle it's taken is rather a social one, and it seems more focused on tabletop experiences--that is, allowing you and your friend to interact with holograms together on a diorama, probably either locally or remotely--as opposed to a more roomscale type of freedom.
However, the fear is that CastAR with become a CoastAR before too long... and that would be sad.
I think their mistake might've been trying to do everything from the hardware to the software & distribution/social network. Without the resources of a Facebook or Microsoft, that made them late to market. And I think they're not capable of really competing with either. So, I hope they have a good niche play in mind.