castAR: the most versatile AR & VR system

What is castAR?

castAR is a projected augmented reality system that displays holographic-like 3D projections right in front of you. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope sparked our imaginations of what might be possible in the future by showing R2-D2 and Chewbacca playing a holographic 3D chess-style game. It has taken nearly 35 years since the film was released for this technological dream to come to reality, but with castAR, that reality can be yours.

castAR includes a very fast and highly precise tracking solution, allowing you to change your experience by holding your 3D world in place while you are free to move around in it.

One primary concern we kept in mind when developing the castAR system was how to bridge the gap between the physical world and the virtual world. We accomplished this through the use of two unique peripherals: the Magic Wand and the RFID Tracking Grid. The Magic Wand is new kind of controller that lets you position things in space and control them with a joystick, all with one hand. The RFID Tracking Grid allows you to uniquely identify, track, and augment physical objects (such as miniatures, cards, and board game pieces) across the surface.

Another goal we have is to make castAR a comfortable and enjoyable experience for a wide audience. The final retail glasses are expected to weigh less than 100 grams, which is only slightly heavier than a pair of sunglasses. If you wear prescription glasses, castAR was designed to sit easily on the outside of them.

castAR requires no calibration or adjustment. Just put on the glasses and play!

Finally, we also strive to make castAR the most versatile head-mounted display available. We offer an attachment that transforms castAR into a true virtual reality system as well as a true augmented reality system. Whichever reality you prefer, there is now a single system capable of taking you there.

How does it work?

castAR’s projected augmented reality system is comprised of two main components: a pair of glasses and a surface. The frames of the glasses contain two micro-projectors—one for each eye. Each projector casts a perspective view of a stereoscopic 3D image onto the surface. Your eyes focus on this projected image at a very natural and comfortable viewing distance. A tiny camera in-between the projectors scans for infrared identification markers placed on the surface. The camera uses these markers to precisely track your head position and orientation in the physical world, enabling the software to accurately adjust how the holographic scene should appear to you. The glasses get their video signal through an HDMI connection. The camera is connected via a USB port on the PC. We are still experimenting with communication options on mobile devices.

The surface is made of retro-reflective sheeting material, similar to the kind used in traffic signs and high-visibility safety clothing. The primary benefit to using this material is that it bounces the majority of light from our projectors directly back toward the glasses with very little scattering. This enables the simultaneous use of a single surface by multiple people while keeping each viewer’s view private from the others.

Since your vision is focused at a natural viewing distance, you shouldn’t experience eye strain. Projected augmented reality allows you to simultaneously see both virtual and real-world surroundings, so you are spared other sorts of discomfort as well. For example, an important aspect of your body’s understanding of the physical world is tied to your inner ear—the part of your body responsible for balance and motion sensing. When you are able to see your physical world, your eyesight and inner ear will stay in sync with your movements. Most people do not feel nausea or motion sickness when using castAR and projected augmented reality.

Software Development

On the software side, we offer several options for developers.

Both the Unity integration and the SDK will be available free of charge. We also plan on making as many of our test / samples / experiences available for free to the public as well.

If you are a developer and wish to know more, please contact us through our website.

What are castAR’s components?

How can I pledge for additional components?

We’ve designed castAR to be a very integrated experience with your physical world. To accomplish this, we’ve created many compelling options. In order to easily add on some of the accessories that might go with your main pledge reward, we’ve created a handy reward calculator to help you pick your options and determine your final pledge amount. The following options, described in detail in the previous section, are available:

What is the history of castAR’s development?

It began with one of those Eureka moments—around May of 2012, Jeri was (as usual) working in Valve Software’s hardware lab late at night. She was doing some experiments with a projector and saw an unexpected flash of light on the opposite side of the room. She observed that when the projector shone onto a particular surface, it produced an extremely bright flash as light reflected back. Investigating the cause of this reflection, she discovered it was a piece of retro-reflective material. Jeri quickly realized that this material could be used as a surface for projecting images onto. It was so efficient at bouncing light back, you could use small micro-projectors that emit tiny amounts of light and still see a very bright image.

The first prototype Jeri created was called the “head crab” due to its large size and the pain that wearing the heavy model caused. It had two cellphone sized projectors and was only capable of displaying a static image without tracking. However, this was enough to demonstrate that the concept could be used as an AR device, so she quickly started to build the next prototype.

Rick had been working at Valve Software for nearly four years when he and Jeri had independently gone to California Extreme (an annual pinball and arcade show) in August 2012. During some downtime, Jeri told Rick about her AR prototype project, lamenting the fact that she couldn’t find anyone within Valve to help her with the software side. Rick, already dedicated to the small team optimizing Linux ports of Left 4 Dead 2 and Team Fortress 2, decided to devote his spare time outside of work assisting Jeri. He spent the next 5 months developing a prototyping system that could easily create and test AR experiences.

Meanwhile, Jeri continued to iterate on her prototypes. Each revision resulted in a smaller, more comfortable design with better tracking.

In early 2013, an ‘opportunity presented itself’ so that Jeri and Rick were able to acquire the technology, forming a new business together to continue the project independently. Over the course of the next 8 months, they spent an average of 14 hour days, 5-6 days a week, pouring most of their energy, lives, and personal savings into expanding and creating new technologies that have become castAR.

Anticipating the need for crowdfunding to raise capital for bringing the final product to market, they decided that the best way to make people believe in the project was to let them experience it firsthand. In May 2013, castAR was unveiled at the Maker Faire Bay Area. The show was a huge success, generating curiosity and excitement. Lines to get into the Technical Illusions booth were at least an hour long each day.

In the last 6 months, we have since shown castAR at more than half a dozen trade shows and conventions while continually refining and improving the hardware and software. We have been exploring more ways to bring the physical world into the virtual world with a wider range of experiences and demos, and hope to inspire others’ imaginations for what the future could bring.

Who are we?

Jeri Ellsworth

Jeri Ellsworth is an inventor, product designer, and engineer of both chip and system-level designs. Her broad skillset enables her to design reliable, low cost, and highly integrated systems, and has made her well-known in the industry for cutting-edge consumer products which sell in the millions.

She often holds the lead designer position on consumer products and has driven many projects from concept to mass production, including electrical and mechanical prototypes, cost reductions, certifications, tooling, tests, and overseas mass production.

Outside of engineering, Jeri has been a key member in several startups and has built businesses from the ground up. She is intimately familiar with day-to-day operations as well as how to build efficient engineering teams in new company environments.

Jeri has become an icon in the maker / educational community for pushing the boundaries of what was thought possible for an individual. She offers her time as a mentor and has produced hundreds of instructional videos demonstrating complex science subjects in an approachable way free of charge. She is a frequent lecturer at universities and speaks at many annual events about creativity and engineering. In 2012, she was presented the Maker Hero of the Year award by MAKE Magazine.

Rick Johnson

Rick Johnson started working on his first professional video game, Black Crypt, half way through college with 3 other people. Raven Software was formed during the game’s development. The game was published by Electronic Arts on the Commodore Amiga. After graduating college, Rick went to Raven full time, working on over 13 titles includingHeretic 2 and Star Wars Jedi Academy. He was the lead programmer on Hexen 2,Soldier of FortuneSoldier of Fortune 2, and Quake 4. After 17 years at Raven, Rick joined Gearbox Software to work on an unannounced prototype project and to assist withBrothers in Arms.

He then moved on to Valve Software. There, he improved editor tools, created the majority of the graphics technology in Dota 2, and was one of three primary founders of the Linux cabal. His contributions helped make Left 4 Dead 2 run on OpenGL in Linux just as fast as its Windows counterpart, helping bring Linux gaming into the modern age.

During his last 5 months at Valve, he spent most of his spare time outside of work helping create a prototyping environment for the AR project that Jeri Ellsworth was involved in. Together, they formed Technical Illusions and continued to iterate on and improve the hardware and software associated with castAR.


Toby is a cat.

Why do we need your help?

Taking functional prototypes all the way to quality retail products is a complex process that requires additional resources, both in capital and manpower. Now that we are at the point where we have proven our various technologies and demonstrated them in public, we have come to Kickstarter to help provide us with the assistance we need to become market-ready.

This transition now means that we will begin to concentrate on:

Fortunately, the experience we have shipping products in the past allows us to know and be able to plan the steps we need to take at this point. The following lists break down the high level type of work and resources that are needed to bring castAR to market:



Product Specific

We hope that by providing you with this detailed level of information, you can see some of the expertise we’ll need to call upon in successfully driving this product toward completion. Our policy has always been to be upfront with people, to demonstrate castAR in public, and let people try it for themselves. By conducting our development in such a transparent manner, we hope to gain your confidence and trust.

During the campaign…

Over the next month, we plan on providing you with new video footage and more in-depth details about castAR. Some of the videos we are planning include a demonstration on how to hook a Unity game up to castAR, detailed talks about how the technology works, and focused explorations of some of the different experiences and games we are currently working on.

Please visit our website and forums at and feel free to ask us questions or share your ideas on what you would like to see more of during the campaign. We would love to hear from you!

We put a lot of hard work into making castAR an exciting product with a wide variety of uses and interactions, and we hope you will enjoy it.

Thank you for reading this far.  We appreciate your support.

Written by Thinker

Real name is Onil Maruri and I am an Entrepreneur giving a helping hand to others I can help.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.