Ex-Valve Engineers Start Kickstarter For New Augmented Reality Glasses

Ex-Valve Engineers Start Kickstarter For New Augmented Reality Glasses

It feels as though we’re on the verge of some kind of transformative change in video games. We’ve been playing the same games in the same way for a laborious amount of time, but now we’re beginning to see tech that’s attempting to redefine how we interact with games. The Oculus Rift, motion control, Kinect — not all of this technology is perfect but it’s a step in different direction, and that’s positive.

castAR, an augmented reality system that uses glasses to create 3D holographic projections in the real world is another attempt to innovate in this space. Its creators Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson have now opened a Kickstarter in an attempt to fund its further development. Images project onto surfaces and remain static while you are able to move around them freely. The Kickstarter itself refers to the chess-like game played by C3PO and Chewbacca in the original Star Wars. castAR is a realisation of that initial concept.

The project started life as a prototype in the labs of Valve. Jeri Ellsworth had an idea and Rick Johnson, whose team was working on Linux ports of existing Valve franchises, decided to help out. 18 months later, both Jeri and Rick have left Valve and were given permission to take this technology with them: a technology that may have fallen by the wayside at Valve is now being given full attention.

It’s interesting but, so far, its implications for gaming seems focused solely on board game style software, which does feel a little limiting. I’d love to see what other developers could do with these kits. I’d like to see what else is possible.

Jeri and Rick are looking for $400,000 from backers and are already over 50% of the way there. I’m looking forward to seeing more of this.


  • but now we’re beginning to see tech that’s attempting to redefine how we interact with games.

    I remember back in the late 80s and early 90s there was a foray into VR but the whole hype died down. Manufacturers then focuses mostly on increasing screen quality and pumping out better video cards.

    VR and the like was put to bed and most things that came out were quickly put to bed.

    So I’m excited that we’re back in a real innovation mindset to explore new ways of gaming.

    • I totally thought your comment was going to end in some mad cynicism about how “Oculus and this are just gimmicks yadda yadda yadda” but I was pleasantly surprised.

      • You confused him with me. I don’t want the way I interact with games to be “redefined” because I like the way it is already. I get excited about improvements to existing formulas, not brand new ideas.

        20 years ago I’d be all over this, but I’m old now and set in my ways. GET OFF MY LAWN!

        • OH man, you have to at least try the Oculus though. I was cynical at first as well but that shit is scary good.

          I’m still skeptical about how they’re going to handle third person games though.

  • Er … With Meta, Google Glass, and now this, it’s definitely looking as if the tech is viable and usable. I just don’t get how $400, 000, as nice a figure as that is, is going to compete against the millions invested by Google.

  • both Jeri and Rick have left Valve and were given permission to take this technology with them

    This detail is usually glossed over [understandably so, because the tech is awesome]. However, it’s worth noting just how nice of a guy Gabe actually is. Jeri was employed by Valve to develop this tech *for valve*. There were two teams working in parallel, Jeri’s team on AR, another team on VR.

    The heads at valve decided to move forward with VR, and discontinue AR development. Jeri’s team was given almost no notice of the cancellation, and were simply told one morning that their project had been cancelled and their employment was no longer required. This is a team that had poured their lives into this project for almost a year [this isn’t a 9-5 job].
    Jeri went up to Gabe, and basically said “OK, if you dont need us any more, fair enough. But we’ve worked and developed this AR tech, let us take it with us”. Gabe said to her “Yes”, and turned to his lawyers and said “Give it all to them, make it happen”.

    If you haven’t worked in RnD before, this may seem like a no brainer. But when it comes to IP [Intellectual Property], tech developed while employed at a company is totally, completely owned by said company, and is usually guarded with an iron fist. A company simply handing complete IP rights over to an employee, completely royalty free, absolutely NEVER happens.

    So while it may have came across as a bit of a dick move to give the AR team the shaft, it was totally Good Guy Gabe in handing them the tech they had worked hard on.

    Jeri is a legend in the EE and hardware hacking scene with a lot of industry experience, and this is seriously cool tech. Cannot wait to see this progress to a consumer product.

    Source: Jeri Ellsworth as a guest on The Amp Hour Podcast, Episode 147
    Link: http://www.theamphour.com/the-amp-hour-147-absorptive-augmented-actuality/

  • This sounds like a goggle based version of the OggBoard which already had my interest. Skylanders and Disney Infinity are great and all but it would be awesome to have the toys or board pieces come alive in your room or a stadium (Think Angelic Layer style battles). All those toy/card/whizmagig based “Kid’s” shows would no longer be action and fantasy to make a more exciting show, it’d be a (virtual) reality.

  • I wish I had Jeri’s brain.

    Also man this sounds cool. Sort of want, but I’ve already thrown enough money down the Oculus path as it is.

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