When Valve laid-off 25 employees back in February, CEO Gabe Newell assured fans that no future projects had been affected. However, as we can now see, one project was indeed impacted: augmented reality glasses. In development for over a year, Valve let the project go after its project lead, the ultra-talented Jeri Ellsworth, was one of those culled from its workforce. Somewhat surprisingly, Valve let Jeri and another firing victim, programmer Rick Johnson, take the project with them and make it their own.
After seeing what these glasses can do, it seems somewhat unbelievable that Valve wouldn’t have continued development on them, but it seems its decision boiled down to a simple argument: AR vs. VR. In this particular case, Valve chose virtual reality, putting its full backing behind the upcoming Oculus Rift. Realistically, this seems like a reasonable choice, since VR caters to first-person shooters better than AR.
As seen from the above image, these AR glasses, called CastAR, are far from production-ready. This summer, the Technical Illusions team, consisting of both Jeri and Rick, will launch a Kickstarter campaign to help get the ball moving as quickly as possible. It’s the team’s hope that CastAR will sell for about $200 once available to consumers.
In The Verge’s hands-on, we can see a Jenga-like game where equipped with a wand, you can knock blocks over. In another example, a second player can join in and do battle in a zombie-infested grid.
There are two things that help set CastAR apart from what we’ve seen before. For starters, above each lens is a projector which beams the image ahead of you onto a retroreflective screen. Because of its design, two or more players could be projecting their own images back and forth without impeding on each other’s display.
With the help of infrared LEDs, the glasses will be able to track your exact orientation at a very high speed – pretty important for any sort of immersion. Further, you’d even be able to drop RFID-enabled cards in front of you to change the mechanics of the game. In one example, a card spawned a Team Fortress 2 character.
Admittedly, I’m finding myself more interested from a technical standpoint with CastAR than something like the Oculus Rift, but I’m still not sold on the fact that either of them is a product I’d use more than a handful of times. Am I crazy? What are your thoughts?