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! http://kck.st/1cjZh29 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.
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!