Tilt Five, the startup behind the eponymous AR headset for tabletop gaming, today announced it has secured $7.5 million in Series A funding.

The funding round was led by SIP Global Partners with participation from BITKRAFT Ventures, Galaxy Interactive, and games industry veteran Ken Birdwell, who is known for his previous work on the Half-Life series at Valve. Jeffrey Smith of SIP Global Partners is said to join Tilt Five’s board of directors.

The company says its Series A will be used to hire additional employees, build partnerships, and expand available content.

Founded in 2017 by Jeri Ellsworth, Tilt Five launched its Kickstarter campaign late last year hoping to attract $450,000 to bring its AR headset to life. Within only 24 hours Tilt Five was fully funded, going on to garner over $1.7 million throughout the month-long campaign. Including current pre-orders for the AR headset, this brings the startup’s overall funds to nearly $10 million.

Image courtesy Tilt Five

Tilt Five uses a similar projection-based technology to Ellsworth’s first AR headset system, CastAR, which attracted $15 million in venture funding before closing down in 2017. Similar to CastAR, Tilt Five includes AR glasses, a special retroreflective game board, and a 6DOF wand controller—all of which is made to work with multiplayer interactions in mind, both local and online play.

Tilt Five’s tech isn’t based on the same sort of wave-guide optics as conventional AR headsets though, which gives it a few important benefits over conventional designs; the headset actually projects the image via two head-mounted micro projectors and tracks the wand controller via inside-out sensors.

Image courtesy Tilt Five

This allows Tilt Five to achieve a reported 110-degree field of view, which is far and away larger than HoloLens 2, Magic Leap 1, or even the Nreal Light headset. Also, because it relies on PC, tablet, or smartphones to drive the experience, it only weighs 85 grams. Still, it’s limited to the playspace of the special gameboard, however judging by the startup’s early crowdfunding success, it’s clear there’s plenty of tabletop gamers out there looking for a more immersive experience.

“Tilt Five was founded on the idea that we can bring family and friends together to play in the real world, enhanced with the magical capabilities of immersive 3D technology,” said Jeri Ellsworth, Tilt Five CEO. “While the tech giants invest billions in far-off solutions, this investment expands our ability to deliver on a proven set of technologies resulting in an affordable, social and wearable device.”

Tilt Five says it’s ramping up production now with the intent of shipping kits to Kickstarter backers and pre-order customers over the next two quarters. It’s base model kit currently available for pre-order, Tilt Five XE, includes a pair of AR glasses, a game board and single wand— priced at $359. Larger format kits including three AR glasses, three wands and a gameboard, are said to arrive sometime next year.

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    I can’t tell, is TiltFive like a hole in the board that is 3D but you can’t reach into? Or does it pop out of the board? If it pops out then this seems like a great piece of of tech and like the only transparent AR thing you could buy anyway. I would love to see them lean more into board gaming itself, like TTS in AR with mods and a basic physics simulation. I wish it could crossplay with SteamVR or be possible to use a steamVR controller/base stations with it, but I can guess that’s too much.

    • kontis

      Neither, just like a 3D cinema or 3D TV is neither one of those.
      If you have ever watched a 3D film, not a normal one like Avatar, but a gimmicky one with “3D effects” you should know what to expect.

      It pops out, but it will get cutt off at the edge of the screen, which in this case is the retro reflector.

      This means the game’s geometry can technically be above the table, but you can look at it only if you don’t get too low, or your perspective will not be good to appreciate that.

      The big corps obviously look at CastAR/Title Five as a silly toy for nerds with archaic tech solution. But they forget that the simplest solutions are the best and the simplicity and low cost are the advantages here.
      It has no potential to even become something mainstream, but good, well optimised niches are sometimes the best thing.

      I would love to see them lean more into board gaming itself

      TiltFive is 100% focused on board gaming. CastAR tried to do everything with some bogus claims and false advertising (like the better-than-oculus VR addon that was never fully finished even in prototype form), but TItl Five has clear massage – this is for table top maniacs.

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        I mean does it feel like a 6doF AR headset, do the objects look real? Edges aren’t a big deal, although it makes me wonder why it is just a single flat board. Laptops are fine if it actually works with laptops, everyone has one and can bring it to play and move from room to room.

        As for board gaming, they show a lot of digital board games, roleplaying, and then tablet apps. I wondering how well it can emulate a real life board gaming experience, that’s why I mention TTS. If it can feel like really playing a board game across distance and with a digital AR mod, then it’s a must buy.

        • Jeff Axline

          unless you talk to someone who has seen it in person you likely won’t get an educated answer. You could watch a few videos to see people’s general impression.

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            Imo, if it doesn’t actually feel immersive in the way I mentioned then it’s kind of pointless for board gaming compared to just being a 3D ipad.

          • Jeff Axline

            Well the surfaces they use are much larger than an iPad and enable multiple players who can all easily see the “board”.

        • Richard_Balkins

          Laptops (Windows and Linux) use the same OS as desktops so it would be supported and in fact, they already been using laptops in demonstrations. Linux is technically already support in-house as they use Ubuntu Linux distro regularly in their development but they have Windows as well for making sure things work properly. You’ll likely see Windows (Linux at some point), Android and then MacOS and eventually maybe…. iOS and other OSs like ChromeOS which is potentially doable after Linux ‘drivers’ are released so you can run it on Linux and eventually other Unix/Linux based OSs. Android is already planned to be supported as they support a goal of being able to use T5 with mobile computing devices which is because their target market will want to use mobile devices like your smart phones and tablets.

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            I know laptops can in theory, I meant in terms of the minimum spec required. What is the equivalent minimum GPU?

          • Richard_Balkins

            Output is sent via USB-C via data (Superspeed). GPU is less critical but that depends on the game or application as to how much GPU processing is done. I would recommend a GPU equivalent to a Geforce 9xx GTX or higher because you’re laptop would need a USB 3.0 port. 2010 was when USB 3.0 was introduced so even a Geforce 400 series GTX line may work if the game or app is very low demanding in today’s terms.

            Note: What game engine is being used to develop the game or app will factor in. The Unity version they are using as base line is 2018.4 which specs a DX10 graphic card with Shader 4.0 as minimum spec. If the game is compiled out to WebGL then we have some other kind specs which may vary depending on the content to achieve certain performance benchmarks.

            You don’t necessarily need the latest and greatest hardware for laptops for some of the games and apps. The game or app developer will or should specify the recommended minimum specs and then what recommended level of hardware above that spec. Sometimes, a person can get away with slightly below minimum spec hardware and it works still but you should use hardware equivalent to a mid-range gaming laptop from 5-6 years ago as a base line. Some developers may have more demanding software apps/games that they would be developing which may have higher demanding specifications to meet adequate performance.

            Does that help? I know it isn’t a straight specific minimum because it isn’t a game console. You will need to look at the specs given by the game or app developer. USB 3.x / USB-C is the most absolute hardware requirement.

            Android devices and software targetted to Android will be developed with such devices as your smart phones and tablets in mind and their typical specs so they are likely to use lower poly rendering than say something designed with RTX 2080s in mind as absolute minimum graphic cards.

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            Many people have laptops with integrated graphics. Would those be able to handle this? If they can then the TiltFive is fine with a tether since it’s a seated experience and you can bring a laptop around easily. I’m still trying to understand if it’s more AR or holographic.

          • Richard_Balkins

            Pretty much all laptops have onboard GPUs whether they are the “AMD” type, nVidia, or Intel (usually integrated with CPU). Short answer, yes but it depends on the app/game. Some integrated graphics will be comparable to a Geforce 4xx except you’ll be sharing system ram as video memory instead of having dedicated video memory. If a game/app uses software rendering vs hardware rendering, it will likely work ok as long as the CPU is able to handle the load. The simpler games are easy and you can use even basic software rendering with an Intel i5 or whatever system equipped with a USB 3.x host controller so you have a 3.x port. Basically, you’re not going to be using a old intel 486 laptop. It should be something made in the last 5-8 years. I recommend laptops made around 2015 and later. Some laptops before that which were on the most very high end, sure but a laptop you can buy for $1500-2,000 back in 2015 would be what I would recommend or higher spec (even though you might not spend as much to buy today).

            So anything along this line of spec:

            https://www.newegg.com/p/pl?N=100167732%20601290951%20600641753&Order=1&LeftPriceRange=500+

            (Whether you are using Windows, Linux, or some other OS) This is the hardware spec that I would be looking at. Whatever gaming laptop hardware that you can basically buy on Newegg for $500 and up but like I said, a lower end laptop might have trouble running some of the most graphically intense AAA game titles so a game like that on Tilt Five would require similar hardware for obvious reasons. Some games really do not require high end hardware for obvious reasons.

        • leseki9

          I mean does it feel like a 6doF AR headset, do the objects look real?
          Edges aren’t a big deal, although it makes me wonder why it is just a
          single flat board.

          There is positional head tracking and controller position tracking, so it’s 6DOF.

          The reason it is a single flat board and marketed for tabletop games is impracticality for anything bigger: before this project was rebranded as Tilt5, it was called “CastAR” and they had demos where there were entire walls around the user with this special projection screen material. The issue was you needed a lot of space and expect users to mechanically fix walls of projection screens around them which was impractical for home use.

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            I mean what if it was one horizontal board and one vertical one connecting on one side. I’m just worried I need to look at this from above exclusively.

          • leseki9

            That’s possible.

      • Richard_Balkins

        However, with retroreflective fabric from 3M or able to be found on Alibaba and other sites, you can expand your gameboard style experience into a “Holodeck” like experience with RR fabric around you be it 180 degrees to 360 degrees including above you and even below you. However, the RR mat is still (at this point in time) required to be viewable for IR-based positional tracking. As far as the Snapdragon comment that was mentioned, why integrate one when we can use your smart phone (at some point). Your smart phone or tablet will just need a USB 3.x / USB-C data (not just power) port.

        This is an “external” display if you think about it to your phone or tablet as well as laptops and desktop computing devices. Why provide a “so-so” Snapdragon little puck when you can future proof things a little because if you want to upgrade, you just upgrade your phone or tablet without necessarily having to immediately upgrade the glasses like you can replace your desktop without necessarily replacing your smart TV or gaming monitor because they can be done freely and independently. This way, if you got a top notch Samsung Galaxy and want to upgrade to a future model of Samsung Galaxy in 2022 or 2023, you can and still use the TiltFive without having to spend nearly as much money on a little 4×6 size Android box that may perform less than an equivalently priced smart phone. It also makes the Tilt Five glasses usable on a wide range of computing devices be it laptop or desktop.

        While the TiltFive company is focusing on board gaming typology, it is still comparable in flexibility as castAR prototypes which were intended to be used by any kind of computing device outputting video output and data.

        As a third party developer, I am developing software for use with Tilt Five and can be potentially used on any platform not just desktop and laptops. They are initially releasing drivers for select platforms and additional platforms like Android, Linux, etc. will come about over time as they get things like drivers, API, etc. finalized and supporting these other platforms but they already had mentioned it on their Discord channel about future plans for additional platforms being supported so yeah…. it may come to your Snapdragon based device near you… in the near future. You’ll likely see Android support before iOS devices for a variety of reasons relating to Apple’s policies and all.

        • leseki9

          However, with retroreflective fabric from 3M or able to be found on Alibaba and other sites, you can expand your gameboard style experience into a “Holodeck” like experience with RR fabric around you be it 180 degrees to 360 degrees including above you and even below you.

          Easier said than done. You need mecahnical support to suspend the fabric around you, without noticeable folds. Most people don’t have the ability or time to build a DIY CAVE-type system in their home. This is the reason they switched to marketing their device for tabletop games. There was no other need to intentionally limit their user base.

          • Richard_Balkins

            Almost everything in the world is easier said than done but yes, if someone wants to build a CAVE type system or whatever, it is all doable. You can even use wallpaper adhesives to a small 10×10 by 8 to 9 ft shed like structure with drywall or hardboard. Some did make a “blow-up” tent thing with RR material. It’s all doable.

            There is a marketing focus for sure but it doesn’t mean there isn’t the possibility of seeing third-party developers putting together RR kits and what not that can be easy to erect as a product and used along side the RR mat. Some of this would be something third-part developers can put together. It isn’t like making say a semicircular shaped form with RR material adhered to it with the RR mat is very difficult to make and produce but for market reach to a user base, it would need to be something made and easy to use and also put away when not in use. Putting together a cubicle or lining a cubicle (of sort) walls with RR material but you would need to use an adhesive to bond the fabric to the walls much like wall paper.

            These are ideas, as a developer, I am exploring as well. I get the issues with corners and folds. Lapping isn’t really the problem as they are not very thick fabric. Folds can be an issue but if you wall paper the RR material then it can likely eliminate the folds issue if you do the “wall papering” good. Sharp corners are my biggest area of concerns but also addressable with rounded corners instead of sharp 90-degree corners.

            I am looking at these ideas for options but also with flexibility. With something new like this, it will be exciting and adventurous yet comes with it some market risk.

            What I am getting at is that they didn’t really limit what the glasses can do or how it can be used. They did focus on a market sector but these are obviously business related decisions and market area to focus on. Knowing the technology behind T5’s headset since the castAR days, lets just say it is very capable to be used in any way or form that was envisioned for castAR. The “AR” market had been defined into basically a glorified head-mounted HUD of sorts and so T5 team has distanced themselves because it isn’t a near-eye display system like google glass and other AR display devices or your VR glasses like Oculus Rift. T5 uses a projection based technology and a RR surface (whether it is a fabric sheet, fabric sheet adhered to a rigid backing, or whatever with adequate retroreflective properties). Yes, most people don’t have the ability (in terms of unused space) to do that inside their home for setting up a CAVE, at least immediately. It isn’t that difficult to setup one for T5 glasses. Everyone has the time if they want to do it. The truth is, they don’t have the drive. If you want to, you just have to save a little bit of cash, set aside time, and dedicate yourself. Everything else is excuses to not do something just like a lot of things are excuses. There’s 168 hours in one single week of the year. 8,760 (8,784 hours during years where there are 29 days in February instead of 28 days) hours a year. I am confident that no one uses all those hours for work and for sleep and if they want to do something, they have to set aside some things they do to do something. The only ones with the almost zero ability to do anything they want to do (unless their parents approve) are children because they have to have parents’ authorization to do something like putting together such a DIY CAVE.

            I’m not talking about just a 2 month or 6 month gimmick here. I’m talking about a technology platform that I’m already plan to be investing decade(s) of supporting. I already been backing this since the original KS campaign for castAR. The technology has value and multiple market sectors. I have nothing against T5’s focusing on tabletop gameplay market sector as their direct focus. Other markets are propped up by us third-party. Sure, T5 will sell units to anyone wanting to buy one or more. They aren’t going to say no to buyers and their cash.

            They just have finite financial resource so as to not over extend themselves in marketing to every possible market sector. It is true that most people won’t have DIY CAVE-type systems for third-party app/game developers would have to make kits along side their app/game to target say….. a personal “holodeck” type game play. T5 isn’t prohibiting third-party developers from doing any of this.

            I’m working on a project where additional RR material forming a sort of 3-sided wall around you would be nice to have and be available. It will be a matter of time for that.

          • leseki9

            That’s alotta text.
            I’m not sure where we disagree: building a DIY cave is time which a lot of people don’t have and it requires space which a lot of people don’t have. A VR HMD doesn’t have these requirements. We don’t really disagree.

          • Richard_Balkins

            VR HMDs have their own inherent problems being a “near-eye” display device and nothing scientifically is yet known to be possible to address those issues 100% especially at a price level that is affordable. At the same time, if a person wants a DIY Cave, they will find a way to make it happen. The money isn’t the problem. RR material isn’t that expensive. As for making room or making room, that’s possible for anyone to do. Whether it takes moving into a purchased house and putting up a small 8 x 8 (by 9 ft ceiling height) shed structure that can be used as a holodeck isn’t that expensive. You just make a shed structure like you otherwise would and line the interior side of the framed walls with a wallboard. You’ll just need to make available electricity and networking/internet (wired or Wifi). If you can cleaverly (while meeting your local codes and fire safety standards), implement heating into the place then that would be great. The least expensive option would usually be using a spare bedroom that isn’t in use. Bottom line, it is possible. I already have the knowledge and skills to make such a DIY “holodeck” using the RR material because of knowledge and background in building design/architecture. They can be inconspicuous to the public in general. The biggest challenge are those living in apartments because you don’t own the property you’re at and condos are not much better because you can’t add-on because own just the unit but not the land. That is the problem with living in those kinds of spaces. Again, if someone really wants to achieve the goal of their own “DIY cave” or whatever, they can do it if they are willing to do what it takes. It might not be a magical wave your hand and it happens. It might take consulting family and relocating. Whether having such a DIY cave is that high of a priority is dependent on the person. There are solutions shy of a bedroom size “holodeck” that we can make for a fairly immersive experience. You can basically take a cubicle unit with it’s divider walls and line it with RR material. A smaller version of the RR Mat would be more convenient in smaller work space. You can even custom the table-top space so it is sufficiently large enough for the mat and have the computer located below the table-top and have enough of said divider wall and you know have a fairly immersive environment. You can certainly see the cubicle in this situation a tad less boring work space. You can also implement in a home. You just need the divider walls and RR material.

            Bottom line: It is possible to achieve something desirable as an outcome for this if you are willing to achieve the goal. It is not insurmountable. The biggest barrier is with the person more than anything else. Everyone faces some challenges. Even when buying new furniture. Where is it going to go? and other questions or problems to solve.

  • Sam Sam

    Nice information shared i like that #Virtual Visual Field

  • wheeler

    I think I recall reading that their solution gets you varifocal “for free” but I’d need someone to confirm that.

    I’m personally not interested in the game board aspect of it. But if I could put a massive retroreflector on a wall, having a varifocal rectangular display still sounds amazing–even if only because you’d get to experience a preview of what VR will (hopefully) be like in 5 years or whatever. But perhaps there are other technical constraints that prevent such a thing from being viable.

    • I confirm. Since the rays arrive directly from the board, so directly from the right depth in space, your eyes can correctly focus on the 3d object.

      (Jeri told me so in an interview I did with her, so I’m quite confident on this)

    • leseki9

      I read in their patents how they achieve variable focus and I don’t think optically it is possible, because any retroreflector, including 3M’s Scotchlite sheets they use are partially retroreflective and partially diffuse. A diffuser “resets” any focal plane, so you have to focus on the retroreflective screen. No retroreflector is perfect.

      In the interviews they probably meant something else unlike their patents: since most games are tabletop, their overlayed AR graphics would also be very close to the position of the table (screen), so you would be focusing on the (nearly correct) distance. But if they tried other games where the screen is instead a window to another world rather than most AR objects expected to be on that plane, then accommodation would still be an issue.

      I don’t have an issue with Jeri’s startup unlike many others and don’t want to believe they intentionally make false claims for marketing purposes. But then again they label this as “holographic” which is also false.

  • Super-deserved! Jeri is a genius

  • leseki9

    I have built a similar prototype and can confirm it’s not smoke and mirrors. This is not new outside of the consumer market and is called a PHMD (projective head mounted display).
    That said, their through-the-“lens” (through-the-beamsplitter) photos are overexposed. You’ll probably need to dim your lights to get soime good contrast and brightness.