CastAR Teardown

A little more than a year ago, castAR, the augmented reality glasses with projectors and retro-reflective surfaces made it to Kickstarter. Since then we’ve seen it at Maker Faire, seen it used for visualizing 3D prints, and sat down with the latest version of the hardware. Now, one of the two people we trust to do a proper teardown finally got his developer version of the castAR.

Before [Mike] digs into the hardware, a quick refresher of how the castAR works: inside the glasses are two 720p projectors that shine an image on a piece of retroreflective fabric. This image reflects directly back to the glasses, where a pair of polarized glasses (like the kind you’ll find from a 3D TV), separate the image into left and right for each eye. Add some head tracking capabilities to the glasses, and you have a castAR.

The glasses come with a small bodypack that powers the glasses, adds two jacks for the accessory sockets, and switches the HDMI signal coming from the computer. The glasses are where the real fun starts with two cameras, two projectors, and a few very big chips. The projector itself is a huge innovation; [Jeri] is on record as saying the lens manufacturers told her the optical setup shouldn’t work.

As far as chips go, there’s an HDMI receiver and an Altera Cyclone FPGA. There’s also a neat little graphic from Asteroids on the board. Video below.

13 thoughts on “CastAR Teardown

    1. It could be a MSO, Mixed Signal Oscilloscope. It is more likely to be a Logic/Protocol analyzer. It doesn’t look like the Tektronics MSO I have access to at work. I am not sure of the brand.

    2. Not sure what kind of scope but it looks similar to the serial decoding you can do on a 1000Z series Rigol. The interface isn’t a Rigol one that I know of but that’s what it is. It’s usually an add-on license to get it on any scope I know of.

    1. I dont’ see HTC partner to manufacture this, but maybe samsung will want to, if you appeal to their sense of competition. And samsung is in a good place regarding parts and manufacturing of course.

      Unless the plan is to do it all themselves, which just seems it might not pan out as I would hope it would. I mean it would be a single US online distribution and not the worldwide in-shops kind of deal I fear, nor would there be ads reaching a billion people. But on the other hand I can see how it’s more attractive to be in control of your own groundwork.
      And in terms of purchase it is competing with your SteamVR money. I’m not sure all people can justify buying both.

      1. The CastAR is really a very different experience from VR devices like the SteamVR or Oculus Rift. It’s painful to see people shoe horn it into the same product category and then roundly declare that it won’t compete.

        1. You can talk at length but I just use my own thinking as basis, if I want something to do stereoscopic gaming and such and have a certain budget then I need to pick from the available devices, and sure it’s a different thing but it’s both stereoscopic gaming/use oriented and there just is so much money which you have to budget across your various wants.

          And as I indicated ideally you could get them both, but that’s for people who are really into tech and can justify it, for the larger audience who makes it possible for such things to be on the market you get people picking one of them. And as I also indicated price and advertisement and availability and ‘buzz’ plays a role.

          And I think just because it’s a different thing it becomes tricky, because if someone is pulled into the oculus through facebook and ads or in steam by virtue of being into that game scene, then when they hear about this AR thing they might be very interested, but then think ‘but I just spend $400 on a VR headset, how am I going to justify it?’ And to get them across the threshold it has to have that buzz and availability and pricing. At least that'[s what I figure from my own viewpoint.

          1. That’s true imjosh but there is the question of resolution and framerate and all that, and the tracking of controllers as part of the system, and games geared towards that. But nevertheless it is a compelling argument for the AR one.

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