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CastAR: The Augmented And Virtual Reality Triple-Threat

How CastAR Works

CastAR works (and is differentiated from other AR technologies we've seen) using high-resolution micro-projectors that throw content out in front of you, rather than shooting it straight back into your eye.

They key to seeing that content is a retro-reflective material capable of bouncing light back to your eyes. You see what your brain perceives out in space, rather than information presented on a screen close to your face.

Consequently, you're less likely to experience eye strain with castAR, allowing you to use the glasses for longer periods of time. And because you can see the augmented reality content and the physical world at the same time, it's possible to interact with people and objects around you while wearing the glasses. Technical Illusions designed castAR to fit over regular prescription frames, and claims that the final version will weigh less than 100 grams.

Of equal importance is castAR's tracking system, which lets you alter your perspective of the 3D content in front of you. By moving your head around, you can look over the top, from the side, or behind a scene. CastAR registers your movements using a built-in camera that tracks an IR LED marker placed within the field of view of the space you’re projecting onto.

CastAR IR LED Head-Tracking Marker

Technical Illusions claims castAR’s positional tracking is sub-millimeter-accurate. Naturally, that accuracy plays a big part in creating an immersive experience. By the time castAR is ready for production, it's expected to employ gyroscopic tracking for use without the IR marker; this is one of the features added through a stretch goal on Kickstarter.

Of course, there also needs to be a way for you to interact with the content projected out in front of you, and there are a number of ways to achieve this. For a more traditional experience, which is one of the demos we tried, you can simply use a game controller. However, Technical Illusions is also working on what it calls the Magic Wand, a 3D input device that uses the same tracking system as the glasses.

CastAR Magic Wand 3D Input Device Mock-Up

Another optional accessory is an RFID Tracking Grid, which sits under the retro-reflective surface. This grid is designed for playing digital board and roleplaying games, and it lets you use objects present in the virtual world. Think D&D miniatures in a projected dungeon. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to test the wand or RFID grid during our time with castAR.

Finally, you'll be able to interact with what you see through gestures. While Technical Illusions isn’t building its own gesture recognition technology, the company told us that castAR will eventually work with commercially available solutions like Kinect and Leap Motion.

CastAR Production Unit Mock-Up With AR/VR Clip-On Attachment

The last piece of the castAR system is the AR & VR Clip-on, which converts the glasses from projected AR to more a more traditional AR (or even full VR) experience. The reflective surface on the clip-on bounces the stereo image back to your eyes. This could be particularly useful for when a retro-reflective surface isn't handy.

Of course, you still need the IR tracker nearby in order to take advantage of the precise tracking provided by the glasses' camera. The AR & VR Clip-on wasn’t quite ready for us to test, but Technical Illusions claims that, with it, “you will have no need for any other head-mounted display”.

  • blackmagnum
    Someone's been trigger happy with the hot-glue gun.
    Reply
  • Quarkzquarkz
    Wait, so will this be better than Oculus Rift? I'm really curious now.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    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.
    Reply
  • CaedenV
    12771614 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.
    Reply
  • Omid_m_19
    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.
    Reply
  • Omid_m_19
    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.
    Reply
  • rsktek
    Wondered how long it would take Tom's to mention this tech gear.
    Reply
  • tristangl
    Off topic and no one will care butI find that dev girl very cute hehe
    Reply
  • tristangl
    Off topic and no one will care butI find that dev girl very cute hehe
    Reply
  • tristangl
    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??!!?
    Reply