Jeri Ellsworth Unveils Augmented Reality CastAR at Maker Faire

Fun & Games Technology
Jeri Ellsworth Unveils Augmented Reality CastAR at Maker Faire

Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson formed the company Technical Illusions to launch a new product that brings augmented reality to you via a pair of high-tech glasses. The product, called CastAR, was unveiled at Maker Faire Bay Area this weekend. Unlike systems that try to close you off from the real world while immersing you in the virtual, CastAR allows you to continue to see in front and around you. The real is mixed with the virtual: augmented reality.

The glasses have a camera embedded on the bridge of the nose, with a projector at each of the upper corners. The camera tracks infrared LEDs embedded in the reflective surface of the screen or playing area.

There were long lines of curious and excited visitors waiting to see CastAR for themselves; so long that the Technical Illusions team had to limit the numbers. The experience is hard to describe if you haven’t seen and felt it for yourself.

A Maker Faire visitor tries our CastAR for the first time.
A Maker Faire visitor tries out CastAR for the first time.

Inside a white tent with dimmed lighting, visitors experienced different aspects of the prototype technology at four different stations.

You can take a virtual fly through over an animated landscape, controlling your unfettered flight with natural movements of your head. Or you can use a magic wand to knock colored blocks around and watch them bounce and fall with simulated gravity and inertia. Another station lets you watch a battle play out between two animated opponents selected based on which playing cards were placed on the table. The final experience was a very simple zombie survival/slaying game. The zombie game demonstrated how two players could work together, each seeing from their own perspective.

The experience was completely natural; I almost didn’t notice how smoothly the projected image was mingled with real life. It was clear that you were experiencing a prototype, and that these games were intended to demonstrate the basic hardware and software concepts. A Technical Illusions employee told me that finished games would be coming soon.

We can’t wait to see what comes next.

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Andrew Terranova is an electrical engineer, writer and author of How Things Are Made: From Automobiles to Zippers. Andrew is also an electronics and robotics enthusiast and has created and curated robotics exhibits for the Children's Museum of Somerset County, NJ and taught robotics classes for the Kaleidoscope Enrichment in Blairstown, NJ and for a public primary school. Andrew is always looking for ways to engage makers and educators.

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