Android co-founder thinks augmented reality is the future of gaming, invests $15M in castAR

We haven’t heard from Andy Rubin in a while. After leading the Android team at Google for close to 10 years, he handed the reins over to Sundar Pichai in 2013 to “start a new chapter” within the company. As it happens, that chapter was never finished, as he left Google about a year later to start his own hardware incubator called Playground Global to invest in startups.

One such startup is a company called castAR, which specializes in augmented reality glasses for gaming. Playground Global will fund the company to the tune of $15 million in order to “drive forward business and continue product development efforts” leading up to a planned 2016 commercial launch.

Augmented Reality (AR) glasses shouldn’t be confused with Virtual Reality (VR) glasses or headsets. AR transposes 3D-like objects on top the real world, whereas VR is limited entirely to the virtual world. In other words, AR is basically a virtual layer on top of the real world, which makes the perfect environment for gaming.

The castAR sports two micro projectors that cast stereoscopic images onto a retro reflective surface, and a tracking camera that measures the position and orientation of the head. Users will control input with a motion-tracking wand similar to a Wiimote. The company will also offer a RFID tracking grid, which fits underneath the retro reflective surface to track and identify objects.

castAR has already demoed a number of implementations, including a first person shooter and a board game. Playing a game of chess could be as easy as putting on a pair of castAR glasses and looking at a table. The board will magically appear and you could then play against someone else in another part of the world. Here’s a quick video showing you some of the possibilities:

The company was founded by Valve Software employees Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnsonborn. After Valve decided to drop the project, the duo formed Technical Illusions in March 2013. The company launched a KickStarer campaign in November 2013 for the castAR glasses and reached its $400,000 goal within 48 hours, eventually raising over $1 million. The company is now based in Silicon Valley, and is now known as castAR.

Some Kickstarter backers have already received prototypes, with more on the way. The company will be announcing a developer kit in the near future, and a commercial launch is expected in 2016.

If you’re not a Kickstarter backer, you can still pre-order the castAR from the company’s website. The castAR itself goes for $400, while the wand controller is $65 and the RFID tracking grid is $85.

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