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  March 19, 2014

New Projected AR Technology Enables Manipulable 3D Gaming

By Andrew Karp

"Portable, realistic, and mind-blowing" is how Jeri Ellsworth (pictured here) and Rick Johnson of Technical Illusions describe castAR, their new projected augmented reality (AR) system that brings digital games, scientific models and other graphics into the real world in manipulable three dimensions. The system, which I tried out at International CES, consists of a pair of special 3D glasses, a fast and accurate tracking solution and a retro-reflective surface. A special attachment quickly transforms the glasses into supporting full Virtual Reality and full Augmented Reality.

The lightweight castAR glasses project a 3D image onto the retro-reflective surface, producing a stereoscopic image. The surface is designed to bounce light almost directly back to the glasses with very little scatter. It creates bright, beautiful, and striking image projections. The surface, which is very flexible, mounts easily on a wall or board, or can lay flat on a table. It can also be wiped down and is not adversely affected by water.

Another key advantage of the surface is that its positioning affects the type of gameplay you choose. If you want to play a tabletop role-playing game (RPG) or a board game, you can lay it on a flat surface. Such a game can incorporate miniatures or game pieces to be used on the retro-reflective surface as part of the game. Radio frequency information devices (RFIDS) are then used to communicate between the surface and the castAR.

If you prefer a first-person shooter game, you can suspend the retro-reflective surface onto a wall to give you the perspective of a person standing and facing forward. You can curve the surface in a half circle for a flight, or driving simulator. The possibilities are varied and have a direct influence over game design and implementation of the player perspective.

The head tracking system dynamically responds to changes in player position and orientation allows you to move freely around the surface to see this image as closely as you like.

castAR also has an input device called the Magic Wand. The Magic Wand is fully tracked in your physical space, allowing easy and natural interaction your virtual worlds. The glasses connect via an HDMI cable for video and a USB cable for communication with the tracking systems.

Technical Illusions recently completed a successful Kickstarter funding campaign, and expects to deliver early developer units of castAR next month.

Technical Illusions has posted several videos on YouTube that demonstrate castAR.

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