Tilt Five Shows AR Tech Aimed at Revolutionizing Tabletop Gaming


Tilt Five is creating a tabletop AR platform aimed at fusing traditional board games with the benefits of augmented reality. This week the company showed off a glimpse of what users can expect from the system.

Though the company is still keeping much under wraps, Tilt Five appears to be the rebirth of CastAR (which itself was initially spun out of Valve) which reportedly shut down in 2017 before it was able to get its AR system to market. In addition to sharing co-founder Jeri Ellsworth, near as we can tell Tilt Five is using the same novel approach as CastAR, though this time the company seems specifically focused on tackling tabletop gaming rather than making a broader AR system.

Though glasses are involved, the system doesn’t use a traditional lens & display setup as you’d expect from other AR headsets. Instead, the headset hides a tiny projector which beams the image onto a retroreflective pad that rests on the tabletop, effectively turning the pad into the display. The dots around the pad seen up by cameras on the headset and used to determine its position, which allows the projected image to update in real time according to the movements of the user.

Image courtesy Tilt Five

The nature of the retroreflective surface means that the light from the projector bounces straight back to the user, while others nearby can’t actually see the image. That means that a single pad can be used to give perspective-correct views to multiple players (you can think of it like a 3D display which gives each user the correct view based on their position).

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Tilt Five aims to use the tech as a platform for amped up board games which won’t be limited by cardboard cutouts, cards, and plastic figures.

Image courtesy Tilt Five

It isn’t clear yet exactly which device would actually render the game world, or how headsets will communicate between each other for multiplayer games, but the company’s site presently says that the glasses will support Windows 10 and “select Android devices” at launch.

So far there’s no details on when Tilt Five will launch or what at what price, though the company says they’ll have more to share this Summer. Presently Tilt Five looks to be trying to build interest with developers to start experimenting with building content for the platform.

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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."
  • Electric Lunatic

    Looks nice, I would love to play it with friends

    • Harry Cox

      Same, I think this would be so much fun at a games party

      • Dennis Goossens

        i think it gets expensive really quickly

        • Paul

          The gear is like $299. Which is way more reasonable than most AR gear on the market. Their unique approach allows them to keep the costs of the hardware down which will make it more attractive to gamers. The technology also does not have to be limited to tabletop games, it basically works on any of that reflective surface material, so they can easily expand into other areas later, but their main focus is on tabletop games right now; rather than trying to do too much too fast. Having a high level of focus like that and making the hardware available to the masses (not just tech companies or manufacturing companies or whatever) via Amazon will be an interesting strategy that could pay off in spades if it all works out. Definitely keeping an eye on them. I got to try a demo at PAX West which is why I’m hooked, lol.

  • impurekind

    Definitely seems like a more polished and finished version of CastAR. Hopefully it finds its niche, because outside of that niche I’d personally just do all of this stuff in a VR headset.

    • Moe Curley

      RIP CastAR.

    • Gerald Terveen

      this was the CastAR not too long ago ;)

  • Huuxloc

    Love it. Imagine using this to play ‘mini Robot Wars’!

  • Gerald Terveen

    Still the most exciting product in the AR space to me! A long time will pass until we get enough AR glasses to play together with friends, but this one I expect to be cheap enough to give me 4 glasses at the price point well below a single Magic Leap!

    Now I hope we will see enough smartphones support it that friends can use their own phones if I supply the headsets.

    Overall I love a ton of stuff with this solution and hope we will see it released in the not too distant future.

  • Jerald Doerr

    Sounds cool… Would have thought this could never work well… I wonder if you get multiple users projection as in how close your heads are before the other user’s projection starts mixing with yours… Also seems like you have to play in the dark…. All in all sounds fun and will sell as long as it’s not $600+ per unit.

    • Gerald Terveen

      the retroreflective sheet only reflects back at a super small angle but with a high gain. even your eyes get their own images thrown back for stereoscopic vision. so that isn’t an issue :)

      • Jerald Doerr

        Ok….. Thanks for all that… But I know for a fact my question is valid… At what point do two peoples vision get blinded.

  • Psuedonymoud

    There are a good number of systems in the commercial/industrial space already using the Head Mounted Projector technique. While IR projection eases the segmentation problem, you still need a solid head tracking system for good world registration. The biggest problem is near object offset: distant surfaces work well (2m+) but as you get closer the relative offset between your pupil axis and the projector axis grows.

    • Paul

      These people aim to be in the residential space, not commercial, and they’re targeting tabletop gamer initially. They want to sell their hardware on Amazon, making it very widely accessible, not just a very focused niche market of customers. I think it should be interesting. Their unique approach to the hardware also keeps the costs down, the hardware is supposedly going to be around $299, way way cheaper than the $1500 Magic Leap devices, heh.

  • Moe Curley

    I wish someone would release a tabletop gaming system with 4 non embarrassing headsets that people would be comfortable wearing for game night. I this would make VR/AR a more likely to be acceptable to the general public.

    • Hivemind9000

      I don’t think the headsets look that bad (sure there could be improvement over time as technology advances, but why wait?). Maybe I misread but it looks like everyone can wear headsets at the same time to get their own perspective-correct view of the game board. I’d definitely play this with friends – depending on how much the headsets were of course.

      • Gerald Terveen

        yes this works with multiple headsets at the same time :)

    • Paul

      The idea behind this is one or 2 people at one persons house has the glasses on, while 1 or 2 people in another persons house or 1 person at a house on the other side of the country, etc. all get together and play together. They all sit around the table, wearing the glasses, and they can now play a tabletop board game together; they can all look down and see the board, see the pieces, move them around, etc. When your hand gets in between your glasses and the board, it creates a type of “shadow” on the board, and other people on the other side of the ‘net will be able to see that shadow on their own board. So they won’t be able to see “you” or even your avatar, but they will be able to see when your hand is over the board, so you could point to a piece or an area of the map or move a character around, etc. and they’d see it.

      • Moe Curley

        That sound great.

  • crim3

    This would be perfect for flight simulation with physical cockpits.

    • Gerald Terveen

      if you put the sheet under your main screen in a 90° angle you could totally make holographic displays pop out in that space like in Elite Dangerous.
      Especially a 3D map could be awesome :)

      • crim3

        I didn’t think about that, that’d be pretty cool too, though.
        I was thinking in building a replica of a cockpit and then put retroreflective screens where there would be glass in the real one and then you have a 360, stereoscopic view of the exterior.

        • Gerald Terveen

          virtual windows would also work quite well I suppose :)

  • Kyle Gagnon

    Content is the hardest part. They will need buy in from industry. I see board games showing an AR enabled sticker for new and re-prints of existing games. They may want to consider board game cafes as customers over the public. Time will tell for the price.

  • JesuSaveSouls

    Looks cool and I would like to see it launch and succeed.Hopefully only a couple hundred bucks.Jesus Christ died for you,He is alive !

    • Paul

      $299 supposedly

  • M0rph3u5

    So its basically an interactive 3D TV only replacing the TV with a board and the remote control with a walkie talkie looking remote/controller thingy

    • Gerald Terveen

      3D tv never took your head movements into account … which makes a HUGE difference!

      • M0rph3u5

        In case you didn’t notice, I was sarcastically joking ;)

        • Gerald Terveen

          you hid the direction of your sarcasm well

  • oompah

    So many good tech shutting down
    But I believe VR is the future for humankind

  • Kim from Texas

    Love that the game shown is Settlers of Catan! It is one of my favorite games of all time.

    • Paul

      I got to try a demo at PAX West, what a blast