If there was one sentence heard over and over at Maker Faire NY, it was “Did you see castAR yet?” The Technical Illusions team was at Maker Faire in full force. [Jeri Ellsworth], [Rick Johnson,] and team brought two demos: the tried and true Jenga simulator, and a newer overhead shooter based on the Unity 3D engine. We didn’t see any earth shattering changes from the previous demos of castAR, as [Jeri] has moved into optimization of the Hardware, and [Rick] toward even more immersive demos of the software. Optimization and preparing for market are considered the “hard yards” of any product design. This is the place where a huge amount of work goes in, but the changes are subtle to the layperson.
In addition to her development of castAR’s ASIC, [Jeri] has been hard at work on the optics. The “old” glasses used a solid plastic optical path. The newer glasses use a hollow path for the twin 720p projectors. This makes them even lighter than the previous generation. Weight on the castAR glasses can’t be overstated. They feel incredibly light. There was no perceptible pressure on the nose or ears when wearing them. Also missing was the motion sickness people often experience with VR. This is because castAR doesn’t replace the user’s vision field, it only augments the vision. Peripheral motion cues are still there, which makes for a much more comfortable experience.
We talked with [Rick] about some of the software challenges he’s faced. One of them was rendering two images for the twin projectors on the glasses. In order to fit everything in the glasses, the right projection path is inverted. [Rick] had to create an inverted optical path to handle this. A PC setup next to the demo showed all the work the software was doing to create what was a seamless experience from the eyes of the user.
One of the most impressive things about castAR is how quickly the image disappears when one moves off axis of the projectors. This is a feature of the retroreflective material Technical Illusions is using. What it means in the real world is that several players can share the same material “playfield”.