Having just announced a large injection of cash in the form of a $15 million Series A investment, AR glasses company CastAR says that the funds will help them fulfill commitments to their Kickstarter backers and push forward to a full consumer launch.

See Also: AR Glasses Company CastAR Lands $15 Million Investment Led by Android Co-founder’s Firm

CastAR was born out of a late 2013 Kickstarter which raised an impressive $1 million to bring a development kit of the curious AR glasses to life. As we described in our prior article on the subject, the CastAR glasses work unlike many other AR and VR headsets on the market:

The CastAR glasses are rather novel in the world of AR and VR. Rather than using a near-eye display, the glasses have mounted projectors which bounce light off of a special retro-reflective material and back to the user through active-shutter glasses. Tracking the user’s position, the projection is updated in real-time to create the appearance of holographic content, effectively turning the material into a stereoscopic AR display. Because the retro-reflective material bounces light back to its origin, multiple users can use the same surface simultaneously without cross-talk, enabling cooperative interactions in the same physical space. The company has also touted a ‘VR clip-on’ accessory which would turn the AR headset into a VR display with a wide field of view, though details of the experience have been hard to come by.

The goal of the CastAR Kickstarter was to bring a development kit of the glasses to market so that devs could start exploring exciting applications for the platform. In addition to the CastAR development kit, the Kickstarter had tiers for a prototype development kit that would ship even sooner. The campaign had rather ambitious goals for shipping: the first prototype development kits were slated for April, 2014, while the final development kits were expected to ship in September, 2014.

CastAR prototype development kit seen at CES 2015

Like many Kickstarters, estimated shipping dates came and went as the team uncovered new challenges in the complex undertaking of making new hardware (not to mention the software to support it). The first prototype development kits started shipping out some seven months after their forecasted date and are still being fulfilled. Meanwhile, the final development kits are going on 11 months delayed.

CastAR says their newly announced investment will not only help them fulfill their Kickstarter commitments for development kits of their AR glasses, but also take them toward a full commercial launch of the product. We spoke with CastAR CEO David Henkel-Wallace to learn about the new CastAR release date timeline.

The latest, says Henkel-Wallace, is that the company has shipped about two-thirds of the prototype development kits. These units are hand-assembled and the company expects that all Kickstarter orders of the prototype development kits will ship out by the end of 2015.

CastAR's VR Clip-on Concept Art
Concept rendering of the commercial CastAR headset and VR Clip-on

As for the final CastAR development kit, Henkel-Wallace says that they ship out in early 2016. The final consumer version of CastAR will land in late 2016 or early 2017.

Thanks to feedback and continued iteration with the prototype development kits, Henkel-Wallace says that the AR glasses have seen improvements in tracking and fidelity. While the display is the same resolution, improvements to the projection system results in a sharper picture. He further says that CastAR has “completely revamped tracking algorithms” that’s “more locked to the table.” The wand input device has also been reworked according to Henkel-Wallace, and is now based on the same tracking tech as the glasses themselves.

The improvements have come since we last saw the CastAR prototype development kit at CES 2015, so we’ll be looking forward to seeing the performance of the latest version of the headset.

See Also: Hands-On with CastAR Early Dev Kit and Through-Glasses Gameplay (video)

Pre-orders for the CastAR headset remain open starting at $400 for the development kit, $85 for the VR Clip-on, and $65 for the Wand Controller.

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Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • Don Gateley

    When they show a VR clip on instead of just talking about it.

    • brandon9271

      I was excited about CastAR when they announced it nearly two years ago but so much had happened since. With Hololens and MagicLeap on the horizon I think CastAR might be DOA. They’ve just taken far too long.

      • Dongulus

        I have seen this opinion quite a lot and I don’t quite agree with it. It’s hard to believe that MagicLeap is anywhere close to a purchasable form; all that we have seen are a number of patents and rumors but no public demonstrations of any actual hardware. Hololens has been shown off with fairly positive reviews, but the technology seems to suffer from the limitations of the display.

        The strength of CastAR is its simplicity. The Hololens and MagicLeap are both ambitious technologies which will attempt to stitch virtual images onto any scene. This will require some intense processing power just for tracking and visual object recognition alone, not to mention the rendering of visual objects. By contrast, the CastAR team have intelligently constrained their experience a bit for the sake of a much simpler tracking system and a display system that can be built with cheap, off-the-shelf components.

        Microsoft has already proven their technology and maybe MagicLeap will too. However, I have doubts that either can produce a successful commercial product. The problem comes back to the processing requirements; complex processing algorithms require expensive components which generate a lot of heat and use a lot of energy. Even backed by giant companies with deep pockets, noone can defy laws of economics and physics.

        tl;dr: Price, performance, and small form-factor: neither MagicLeap nor Hololens will be able to deliver all three. CastAR can.

        • brandon9271

          I just wish CastAR would explain the tech a little better. How does out properly focus the projector on the surface as you move your head in and out? How does the software know the shape of the surface you are projecting on in order to compensate for distortion? On a face surface this isn’t a problem but on curves or 90 degree surfaces the renderer would have to prewarp the image and do so dynamically as your head moved. Sort of like a CAVE system. I’ve never seen any of that address before