[Jeri] spills the beans on her AR glasses


In the last year, [Jeri Ellsworth] has been very busy. She was hired by Valve, started development of an augmented reality system, fired by Valve, and started a new company with [Rick Johnson] to bring her augmented reality glasses to the market. On the last Amp Hour podcast she spilled the beans on what went down at Valve, how her glasses work, and what her plans for the future are.

[Jeri] and [Rick]‘s castAR glasses aren’t virtual reality glasses like the Oculus Rift or other virtual reality glasses that cut you off from the real world. The castAR glasses preserve your peripheral vision by projecting images and objects onto a gray retro-reflective mat and allows you to interact with a virtual environment with an electronic wand. So far, there are a few demos for the castAR system; a Jenga clone, and a game of battle chess called Team For Chess, a wonderful reference to Valve’s hat simulator.

The electronics inside the castAR glasses are fairly impressive; new frames are drawn on the retro-reflective surface at 100 Hz, positioning accuracy is in the sub-millimeter range, and thanks to [Jeri]‘s clever engineering the entire system should be priced at about $200. Not too bad for an awesome device that can be used not only for D&D and Warhammer, but also for some very cool practical applications like visualizing engineering models of 3D prints before they’re printed.


  1. Andrew says:

    Now that sounds better than google glass, much better. I think I will not be getting 2 pairs of google glasses to turn them into one after all. Hope the whole thing works out.

  2. Doktor Jeep says:

    Outstanding! I was waiting for some smart people to one-up GG. Let the trendies have their GG so they can post pics of their breakfast and shoes to Twitter, let the real people have THIS.

  3. heatgap says:

    Jeri! We Love you! Despite Valve’s “great clensing” of their hardware department they were all bat shit crazy to let you go! This project is awesome stick with it and we will back ya! <33

  4. David says:

    Nice to see retro-reflective head mounted projected displays move towards commercialization. If you want to read more about this kind of display, you can check out some information I’ve written here:




    • RichC says:

      I assume these retro reflective surfaces are Scotchlite(tm) type material which is a bunch of tiny glass spheres embedded in the surface. Can you get more than one pixel per sphere reflected and can it reflect beams that are not focused at infinity. I was wondering if it could be used in an enclosed headset, but with one projector focused at infinity for distance where parallax provides depth cueing and two focused at maybe half as meter where binocular vision and focus can provide depth.

    • Pinky's Brain says:

      How is the patent situation? I don’t say this often, but this idea deserves one … did the researcher just throw it out there without patenting, does Jeri’s company own it or is it licensed for a cost which won’t make these glasses boutique regardless of Jeri’s engineering?

    • RichC says:

      I wonder if the retro-reflective surface also participates in the motion detection. Some sort of optical Fourier transform using light from the projectors, then extract the phase information for motion?

  5. Zee says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but you still need to be looking at a “Screen” for this to work

    • Not only that, if you turn around you’ll blind someone. Forget about privacy too!

    • wardy says:

      Indeed, but the “screen” is orientated as if laid out flat on a coffee table (in most cases I suspect). Multiple gamers can use the same screen (sitting in a circle around the coffee table) but with an image that is unique to each person looking at that screen (the retro-reflective material ensures that each player sees only his/her personalised image). A third party without the glasses would see nothing meaningful when they look at the screen.

      I can’t wait to see this tech become available, I think it’ll be a huge success. The sub-millimetre viewpoint headtracking will be a game changer (please excuse the pun).

    • hospadar says:

      Plus if you were clever you could probably generate a pretty realistic stereo image hologram-style with a device like this. The illusion would break down at the edge of the mat, but I think the overall coolness would easily win out.

      I’d love to play LoL on a 3d millenium falcon mat.

  6. Kevin Keith says:

    Why did she get fired? Valve made a terrible mistake!

    • CodeRed says:

      My best guess would be that they just had too many engineers on the payroll, and since they didn’t have a use for the AR project themselves, decided cutting that project and the associated personnel would be the easy way to reduce head count.

    • Timberwolf0122 says:

      They let go 25 people, sounds like they killed of a whole department.

    • anyone says:

      It happens, nobody’s fault really. Except maybe upper management for hiring them in the first place. But even them you can’t blame because sometimes they make a bad guess or prediction.

      • steaky says:

        valve dont have upper management

        • FrankTheCat says:

          Valve doesn’t have management

          • eldorel says:

            Either don’t or doesn’t could be used correctly depending on what you mean by “valve”.

            “Doesn’t” is correct if you mean valve as a singular corporate entity, but “don’t” is correct if “valve” is being used to refer to the people who make up the corporation.

          • Greenaum says:

            I think his point was that Valve don’t have *any* management, not just upper. I don’t know anything about Valve, but I think that’s what he was pointing out, not trying to correct the they / it grammar thingy.

    • Fry-kun says:

      If you look closer, it was a layoff.
      Firing often has a connotation of person having dome something wrong; laid off/let go/etc. is everything else (you may be good at what you do but [there's no business|project is cancelled|we don't have enough money to keep you|etc.])
      Editor might want to change the article to not say “fired” as that could be considered slander.

  7. steaky says:

    I’m pretty sure that if/when they do a kickstarter its going to be one of the fastest “selling” things, and I cant wait

  8. Truth says:

    Nice use of Retroreflectors. i really like the ideas used in the AR.

  9. geekmaster says:

    “Valve’s hat simulator”. Oh, you must mean “Hat Fortress 2″:



  10. xorpunk says:

    I also can’t find any negative-criticism/”trolling”/”hating” for this. The price seems realistic for something with such software features and hardware, and it seem efficient.

  11. alex555 says:

    I always wondered how to control these things. Touch screens probably would not be great.

    • VR touchscreens all the way! says:

      no, VR touch screen would be perfect for this. e.g. View VR object,
      VR touch manipulation of VR object, e.g. rotate; move from left side of viewing to right side of viewing; push those VR buttons; rotate the
      VR knobs for volume, brightness, etc (vs. touch the glass screen).

    • Pinky's Brain says:

      I’d make some type of pointer with buttons and a camera in it. The pointer can use the same IR LEDS as the glasses use to see where it’s pointed at … then the system can create a virtual representation of whatever type of manipulator you want where you point at (a croupier stick or a disembodied hand for instance).

  12. xorpunk says:

    Glasses and bitmap tracking are probably as advance as interfaces will get till someone with and imagination AND intelligence figures out how to control photons and molecules to track interaction with air molecules.. 3D air displays

  13. RandyKC says:

    My definition of a bad day: You’ve just spent the last 6 months working on a new type of augmented reality glasses when you hear that Jeri Ellsworth is doing the same thing.

  14. all_repair says:

    work or not, if it is Jeri, i shall get one.

  15. droostubbins says:

    I tried these out at MakerFaire a few weeks ago, and wasn’t very impressed. Did anyone else try them and come away with a more positive impression? If you did, please share it! I’d really like to like these glasses, but compared to the Rift they’re a much worse experience.

  16. Same here, it sounds intriguing to us FPS fans.

    I expect that a lot of medical applications exist, such as projecting 3D proteins etc.
    Make the whole thing a lot smaller and add a few more projectors and build a real life Holodeck :-)

  17. strider_mt2k says:

    This woman is like a hacking superhero.
    Much admiration!

  18. Spacedog says:

    I’m all over this when it hits kickstarter. looks awesome.

  19. Philip says:

    Hello Tony Stark style prototyping, albeit with glasses for now. But these babies mixed with some great motion/gesture tracking would be awesome. Maybe if the EEG (I hope I’m correct in that) thought interpretation catches up you you throw that in the mix as well, as an intuitive input system. I see the future that I imagine getting closer every day; and it gives me a warm, happy feeling inside. Plus I loved Daemon so these fit pretty well into that scenario.

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