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.
What are castAR's components?
The castAR glasses contain a set of two high resolution micro-projectors. Each projector independently refreshes at 120 hertz and has a very high fill factor (i.e. no screen door effect). While the retro-reflective surface eliminates the majority of the cross talk between projectors, active shutters eliminate the rest. There is also an integrated tracking camera (see the Tracking Camera section below). They easily fit over prescription glasses; final weight is expected to be less than 100 grams.
- AR & VR Clip-On
This clip-on attaches to the front of the glasses to transform your experience into either true AR or true VR. True AR allows you to use our glasses without the retro-reflective surface, augmenting the real world. True VR is a fully synthesized environment; the computer generates all aspects of the visuals you see. The clip-on has been designed to be comfortable and lightweight, yet still provide the immersive atmosphere you want. With this component, you will have no need for any other head mounted display.
- Tracking Camera
This highly accurate tracking system is capable of detecting movements of sub-millimeter. It is also extremely fast, capable of tracking at 120 hertz, and is low latency, cutting out several frames of delay compared to other tracking schemes. Custom hardware logic on the glasses handles localized processing of the image data. As this logic does all of the analysis-intensive work, the connected computer simply receives the results, thus freeing its CPU up for other tasks. The system is also very power efficient and will have negligible impact on your battery life when used with mobile devices. The tracking camera can be purchased separately to be used on head-mounted displays that don’t have highly accurate tracking, such as those which rely solely on gyros.
- Magic Wand
The Magic Wand can be used as both a joystick and a 3D input device. The handheld portion of the wand has buttons, a trigger, and a thumb stick. The wand also tracks its own movement in 3D space, allowing you to seamlessly interact with your virtual environments.
- RFID Tracking Grid
The RFID Tracking Grid sits underneath your surface. When used with the bases (see the Bases section below) or your own RFID tags, the software can track and uniquely identify them across the surface. This allows you to associate tags with physical objects such as miniatures, cards, board game pieces, or anything else that fits on top of the surface. You can use the tracking and identifying abilities to augment your pieces, such as displaying stats or a health bar next to a physical miniature, or calculating the distance between two separate miniatures.
RFID (bottom left) and RFID Precision (bottom right) Bases shown with possible game pieces
Bases are designed to allow you to conveniently use your existing miniatures. For most standard-sized miniatures, our base will easily snap onto the bottom. Bases come in two varieties: RFID and RFID Precision. RFID allows you coarsely track and uniquely identify game pieces across the RFID Tracking Grid. Precision Bases have a custom circuit board that allows for both RFID tracking as well as two-way communication. The two-way communication can be used for such things as increasing the precision of the position tracking or to control small motors and other miniature electronics. For example, you could have a dragon miniature with a Precision Base that has a tiny smoke generator and some red LEDs attached to it. The software could then tell the base to turn on the smoke generator and the red LEDs, providing an illusion that the dragon is breathing fire.
What are the castAR Specifications?
- Larger Surface
This surface is twice the size of the standard one, for people who want a larger area to experience their projected augmented reality on.
- Less than 100 grams in weight
- Fits over most prescription glasses
- Ultra flexible micro coax cable
- Active shutters with 50% duty cycle
- 1280 x 720 resolution per eye
- 120hz refresh rate per eye
- 24 bits of color per pixel
- 65 degree horizontal field of view
- 93% fill factor
AR & VR Clip-On
- 110 degree FOV
- 120hz update rate
- 8.3ms response time
- 6 degrees of freedom
- Absolute positioning
- Over 200 unique tracking points
- 0.07mm accuracy at 1.5m
- 90 degree horizontal FOV
- Very low distortion freeform optics
- 5mm by 8mm eye box
- Removable flip up shutter for AR mode