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Ex-Valve staffers launch Kickstarter for augmented and virtual reality glasses

Oculus Rift is no longer the only hot virtual reality tech around. Enter castAR, a “projected augmented reality system” that works using a combination of heavily kitted out glasses, a motion-sensing “Magic Wand,” and an RFID Tracking Grid. It is the creation of Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, a pair of ex-Valve Software staffers who spent their final months at the company working on an augmented reality project. After leaving Valve, they formed Technical Illusions together and are now seeking $400,000 in crowdfunding on Kickstarter.

The castAR glasses are quite a bit more complicated than Oculus Rift, which is ultimately just a monitor that you wear on your head. The glasses themselves are fitted with two micro-projectors, one for each eye, and make use of active shutter technology to limit what each eye can see. Between the two lenses is a camera that enables head-tracking, using infrared ID markers placed on an included reflective surface. This is where the castAR’s holographic projections appear. Then there’s the Magic Wand, a Wii Remote-like device fitted with buttons and a trigger, an analog stick, and motion tracking tech.

Various funding tiers allow backers to choose whether they want just the glasses/reflective sheet, just the Magic Wand, or the entire bundle. There are additional options as well for those who want to accessorize with RFID tracking bases (for use with, say, action figures). Give the Kickstarter page a read; castAR is a nifty piece of tech, but it’s a bit more complicated to explain than something like the Rift.

Fans of virtual reality: this is great news. Oculus VR is generating a lot of interest out in the gaming world, so much so that Sony may be prepping its own VR goggles for the PlayStation 4. Competition is a good thing, and castAR is yet another contender. The more options there are, the more the respective creators and engineers are pushed to innovate. 

Developer kits for castAR are expected to ship in late 2014. Take a peek at the Kickstarter and see what Ellsworth and Johnson have been up to.