Paul James sits down with Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, the masterminds behind the unique augmented reality system CastAR, to review what’s happened in the 12 months since CES 2014.
There’s no doubt that covering a show as large as CES is a challenge. Long hours, endless travel and countless meetings are enough to break the most resilient of souls. The reason why it remains a privilege and not a chore is the people you get to meet.
Throughout our week long coverage, we’ve met incredible people who believe passionately in what they’re doing. Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, founders of Technical Illusions and the core team behind the augmented reality system CastAR, are no exception.
Their last 12 months of arduous product development seemingly hasn’t dimmed the pair’s passion for their work, or their desire to talk about it. The Kickstarter funded project, which pulled in a cool $1M+ before closing, started life deep within the bowels of Valve’s R&D labs, from which Rick and Jeri originally hail.
The project recently celebrated the shipment of its first set of glasses to be sent to backers, specifically from the $900 tier of the campaign. With feature sets now locked down and the majority of issues ironed out, the team are now making adjustments ahead of shipping the final revisions to the remainder of backers.
Reviewing the year since CES 2014, recall unforeseen issue with the ergonomics (nose-pinching glasses) and construction (connectors mysteriously falling off). The pair were upbeat about where the product is headed, with aesthetic changes and weight shavings (a target of 85g) improving fit and finish and improving user experience. On the software side, they’ve achieved Unity integration and have plans for a software sharing platform, where developers can show off their CastAR projects.
As for the anticipated VR clip-on accessory, which turns the primarily augmented reality glasses into a lightweight VR headset, Jeri’s doubling down on the feature now that other, required steps are complete. “As soon as I got the real projectors in my hands we immediately started working on the VR clips” Jeri tells me, “it’s still trial and error” – but she’s excited with the way things are headed.
As for when backers of the project can expect to see their glasses arrive on the doorstep, Jeri was unwilling to commit at this stage. “..we don’t wanna go too quick” she tells me when I ask about eventual ship dates. Ergonomic issues being high on their list of things to resolve.
Finally, for those who follow the team’s Kickstarter backers, the team’s mascot, Toby the cat, is now in better health after suffering stroke last year.
We’ll be sharing more detail of our time with CastAR itself in a hands-on piece due soon. In the mean time, our thanks to the CastAR team for their time.