castAR from Technical Illusions.
Technical Illusions was founded by chip wizard Jeri Ellsworth and game programmer vet Rick Johnson. Jeri Ellsworth is best known for creating a Commodore 64 emulator within a joystick. It ran 30 video games from the early 1980s, and was very popular during the 2004 Christmas season, at peak selling over 70,000 units in a single day. Johnson most recent work was at Valve working on hit games like Left 4 Dead , Portal 2, and DOTA. The experienced duo combined forces upon leaving Valve to focus on developing the new augmented reality technology. “We believe that augmented reality is the future not only in gaming, but ultimately the new user interface in computer technology.”
Information from their Kickstarter page:
How does it work?
castAR's projected augmented reality system is comprised of two main components: a pair of glasses and a surface. The frames of the glasses contain two micro-projectors—one for each eye. Each projector casts a perspective view of a stereoscopic 3D image onto the surface. Your eyes focus on this projected image at a very natural and comfortable viewing distance. A tiny camera in-between the projectors scans for infrared identification markers placed on the surface. The camera uses these markers to precisely track your head position and orientation in the physical world, enabling the software to accurately adjust how the holographic scene should appear to you. The glasses get their video signal through an HDMI connection. The camera is connected via a USB port on the PC. We are still experimenting with communication options on mobile devices.
What are castAR's components?
Glasses - The castAR glasses contain a set of two high resolution micro-projectors. Each projector independently refreshes at 120 hertz and has a very high fill factor (i.e. no screen door effect). While the retro-reflective surface eliminates the majority of the cross talk between projectors, active shutters eliminate the rest. There is also an integrated tracking camera (see the Tracking Camera section below). They easily fit over prescription glasses; final weight is expected to be less than 100 grams.
AR & VR Clip-On - This clip-on attaches to the front of the glasses to transform your experience into either true AR or true VR. True AR allows you to use our glasses without the retro-reflective surface, augmenting the real world. True VR is a fully synthesized environment; the computer generates all aspects of the visuals you see. The clip-on has been designed to be comfortable and lightweight, yet still provide the immersive atmosphere you want. With this component, you will have no need for any other head mounted display.
Tracking Camera - This highly accurate tracking system is capable of detecting movements of sub-millimeter. It is also extremely fast, capable of tracking at 120 hertz, and is low latency, cutting out several frames of delay compared to other tracking schemes. Custom hardware logic on the glasses handles localized processing of the image data. As this logic does all of the analysis-intensive work, the connected computer simply receives the results, thus freeing its CPU up for other tasks. The system is also very power efficient and will have negligible impact on your battery life when used with mobile devices. The tracking camera can be purchased separately to be used on head-mounted displays that don’t have highly accurate tracking, such as those which rely solely on gyros.
The Magic - Wand can be used as both a joystick and a 3D input device. The handheld portion of the wand has buttons, a trigger, and a thumb stick. The wand also tracks its own movement in 3D space, allowing you to seamlessly interact with your virtual environments.
RFID Tracking Grid - The RFID Tracking Grid sits underneath your surface. When used with the bases (see the Bases section below) or your own RFID tags, the software can track and uniquely identify them across the surface. This allows you to associate tags with physical objects such as miniatures, cards, board game pieces, or anything else that fits on top of the surface. You can use the tracking and identifying abilities to augment your pieces, such as displaying stats or a health bar next to a physical miniature, or calculating the distance between two separate miniatures.
Bases - Bases are designed to allow you to conveniently use your existing miniatures. For most standard-sized miniatures, our base will easily snap onto the bottom. Bases come in two varieties: RFID and RFID Precision. RFID allows you coarsely track and uniquely identify game pieces across the RFID Tracking Grid. Precision Bases have a custom circuit board that allows for both RFID tracking as well as two-way communication. The two-way communication can be used for such things as increasing the precision of the position tracking or to control small motors and other miniature electronics. For example, you could have a dragon miniature with a Precision Base that has a tiny smoke generator and some red LEDs attached to it. The software could then tell the base to turn on the smoke generator and the red LEDs, providing an illusion that the dragon is breathing fire.
This surface is twice the size of the standard one, for people who want a larger area to experience their projected augmented reality on.
On the software side, we offer several options for developers.
Software Development Kit: If you are doing a custom game or other application, you can use the SDK to get access to tracking data / rendering matrixes as well as RFID data.
Unity integration: Simply create an empty GameObject and add our interface script to it. You’ll be off and running under castAR within a few minutes. Additional scripts for the Magic Wand and RFID objects are also available.
(Potential) Support for existing VR applications: We are also investigating ways to get existing VR applications up and running on our system.
Both the Unity integration and the SDK will be available free of charge. We also plan on making as many of our test / samples / experiences available for free to the public as well.
With a Kickstarter goal of $400,000 that raised $1,052,110, seems there are a lot of folks that want to do castAR. I am eager to see what comes from it.