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Ex-Valve devs Kickstarting augmented VR, head tracking glasses

Well the VR scene is certainly heating up. Oculus Rift is winding up towards its commercial release and Avegant is working on its own retinal projection system, but don’t think for a second that this is going to be a two horse race. Remember those couple of Valve employees that were let go a while back to cries of outrage? Well they’re back and they have a new set of augmented reality and virtual reality specs all in one, that looks like it could really shake up the scene.

The augmented side of things uses a projection system, letting you do anything from viewing medical diagrams, to playing Dejarik – just make sure to let the Wookie win. Slip the VR filter over the top of the glasses though and suddenly we’re in familiar Rift territory. The whole thing features head tracking, so what you can see is adjusted based on your movements and the whole thing looks pretty lightweight compared to headset offerings we’ve seen so far.

The reason I’m so excited for this bit of tech, is that a love a good board game. The only problem with board gaming can be getting everyone in the same room together, but with these, that problem vanishes, as you’ll be able to run a game in your house, while everyone else with the augmented tech is seeing the same thing from theirs.

NB. I can’t get the Kickstarter video to embed, so head here to check it out – really, it’s worth it.

castar
No CGI here, that’s all augmented projection

The one downside, though certainly a strong difference from its competition, is the projection screen that has to be laid down for augmented reality to work. Underneath it, there’s an RFID tracking grid, meaning you can use real world miniatures and have the technology pick up on what they are, adding health bars or other stats, perhaps character names. Theoretically they could even become animated.

There’s also a magic wand to go along with the CastAR, giving some basic controller functionality for those that want to use the technology for more than gaming. This lets you use it as a pointing device, but also control any other functions of the task you’re performing.

wand

As with all of this tech though, the problem is the waiting time. Even if you pitch in $900 on the Kickstarter and get the early developer version, you won’t be getting hold of anything until April next year. Everyone else will have to wait until September 2014 to receive their commercial version.

However the price isn’t too bad. One basic CastAR glasses kit with all the necessary accessories, will set you back around £120 + postage. It will be really interesting to see if the Oculus Rift and Avengant’s glasses can compete on this level, despite not offering the augmented reality features.

KitGuru Says: Well I’m sold. A bit of Descent Journey’s In the Dark over online augmented reality? The potential their is huge. I can’t wait. 

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