palmer-luckey-oculus-rift-palmertechPalmer Luckey, creator of the Oculus Rift and co-founder of Oculus VR Inc, is one of only two people to support the CastAR Kickstarter at the highest ($10,000) tier.

CastAR is a forthcoming head mounted display, created by two ex-Valve employees, aimed at augmented reality and virtual reality applications. Technical Illusions, the company behind the device, took the project to Kickstarter last month. The crowd-funding campaign has raised nearly $700,000 as of today, $10,000 of which has come directly from Oculus Rift creator, Palmer Luckey.

In a post on the forums of Star Citizen, a major forthcoming title which will feature Oculus Rift support, Luckey responded to a post which contrasted the abilities of CastAR and the Oculus Rift:

“Full disclosure, I am the creator of the Rift. You are a bit off on a few things, I just wanted to clarify where I can.

The gyros in the Rift do not introduce significant lag, they are actually one of the fastest things in the pipeline. We sample internally at 8000hz and report the smoothed samples over USB at 1000hz, so there is only 1ms between updates. The total latency of the tracker from motion to PC is about 2ms. It is definitely not accurate to say that CastAR has almost zero lag when compared to the Rift, the optical system they are using is innately 8 times slower than the Rift tracker, not including the time it will take to do image processing (which is minimal, since they are doing that in hardware). Full 6DOF tracking is definitely important, though, it does a lot to reduce simulator sickness! You are also partially wrong about being able to use CastAR without setting up a mat, you still need to set up markers for the optical system in whatever direction you plan on looking. Looking around 360×360 needs visible markers on all the walls, ceiling, and floor. I think they mentioned that they might build a gyro into the final product and use it in tandem with the optical system, which is a great way to do things.

I am excited to see the final CastAR, I backed the Kickstarter for $10k. Can’t wait to see what they end up with!Luckey wrote. [our emphasis]

We knew that Luckey had backed the CastAR Kickstarter as of October 14th when he tweeted “Backed the #CastAR @kickstarter!  Excited to have a pair to play with. Keep up the great work @jeriellsworth @rickmus!” but we didn’t know for how much until now.

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The $10,000 tier of the CastAR Kickstarter entitles the backer to a hand-built prototype of CastAR along with the package included with the ‘Pro’ tier. The Prototype tier was limited to two backers and is now sold out.

This is a rather interesting move given the potential for competition between the Oculus Rift and CastAR, though there are a few important factors that may have shaped Luckey’s decision.

First, Luckey has one of the largest personal collections of unique head mounted displays in the world. Backing the CastAR Kickstarter means that he gets not only a prototype, but the final version to add to his collection.

Second, the two prototype units are expected to be delivered in January 2014, months earlier than the production units. This means Luckey and Oculus VR Inc will get their hands on CastAR earlier than anyone else for research and testing. It’s possible that Oculus VR Inc actually fronted the money for Luckey to back the Prototype tier so that they could get the prototype unit without appearing to make an official endorsement of CastAR (which likely wouldn’t go over well with their investors). Update (11/4/13): Luckey reached out to Road to VR to clarify. “…I did back CastAR on day one myself… Supporting the VR industry and expanding my collection are both important,” he wrote.

And third, despite the potential for competition, Luckey’s humble demeanor seems to be that he genuinely wants to see CastAR and other solutions take off, because he’s committed to making virtual reality (in the broad sense) hit the mainstream. Luckey had the following to say on the CastAR Kickstarter reddit thread:

I tried CastAR at MakerFaire, it was very cool. I worked on some similar tech when I was at ICT, but that required a bulky helmet and professional tracking system. Pretty incredible that a much higher res system with built in 6DOF tracking is already available at such a low price!

Really excited to try out their VR lens addon, too.

Thanks to the sharp eyes of reddit user Rirath for bringing this to our attention!

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  • Mageoftheyear

    Awesomesauce. This is just my own personal assessment, but I don’t believe Palmer would have posted that he was a backer of CastAR unless he was the one fronting the money in a personal capacity.
    I also don’t think the investors would stoop to nannying Oculus in their PR technique. They have been pretty solid in their reporting so far and the frankness of their enthusiasm for VR has earned them a lot of credibility.

    I don’t doubt that there are benefits to receiving one of the first prototypes, but I also remember that the Rift dev kit was designed to be taken apart by any willing soul, either nefarious or saintly (to date the coolest mod I have seen for the Rift is the RGB LED mod by hackaday – if either yourself or Paul get get a chance to speak to Oculus prior to the consumer release, would you mind asking them what hardware mods in the hacker community they have drawn inspiration from? Much is said with regards to innovative game design, but not much has been asked on the hardware outside of Oculus development. A mention of the LED strip mod by Caleb would be awesome!)

    In any case this article convinced me to buy Jeri a cup of coffee. She has 439 now! I hope she shares some of them with Rick! :O

    As always, thank you for the coverage Ben. And ty to Rirath as well.

    • Ben Lang

      Hey Mage,

      I’ll see if we can ask Oculus that question next time we sit down with them.

      You are right, I think the most likely explanation for Palmer’s move was because he wants to see VR succeed (and I think he’d love to have the prototype in his collection!). However, there are several forces at play here (and I wanted to make them all apparent). Oculus is still a startup company, I don’t believe that Palmer is a millionaire or anything (yet) so throwing around $10k is probably not a decision he made lightly. Even if he did back the project all with his own money, he’s almost definitely going to take it into the office to show the gang, and to tinker with it.

      I definitely agree that Oculus has earned a lot of respect, and Palmer remains humble despite his success (I hopefully made that clear in the article), which is very respectable.

      Glad that you’ve backed CastAR as well, I’m also very much hoping to see the project succeed!

      • Mageoftheyear

        Thanks Ben! :)

        To be clear myself, I didn’t mean to imply that the article was biased – it’s not.
        I agree, 10K is nothing to sniff at and I hope Oculus are able to learn some lessons from CastAR.
        It’s unfortunate that I can’t back the project properly atm (loosing my job soon so I need to be realistic… no pun intended! :P) but I can definitely see myself buying one of these in the future!
        I really hope things work out well for Jeri & Rick. They’ve pushed through a lot to get where they are. (Fyi, Jeri posted in the thread too )

        It’s certainly long term, but I’m not sure if you know that Brendan Iribe backed Emotiv Insight.
        The day VR incorporates what I am thinking into gameplay is the day I will be thoroughly freaked out. Can’t wait! XD

  • goettel

    This has shaken my damned solid foundation of cynicism, I might sue for emotional damages. Try to be less awesome, please, this can’t be good for anyone!