Oculus Rift, CastAR, and Friends: Virtual Reality Hardware Becoming A Full Market

Steve Anderson : End Game
Steve Anderson
The Video Store Guy
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Oculus Rift, CastAR, and Friends: Virtual Reality Hardware Becoming A Full Market

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. That's not just a partial Bible quote turned pithy saying any more, but rather a fair description of the virtual reality market. While there was software and to spare ready to take advantage of the virtual reality concept by giving us the perfect perspective for virtual reality--the behind-the-gun stance of the first person shooter--the hardware simply just wasn't there to give us that full experience the way "Dactyl Nightmare" did back in the 1990s. That, however, is changing, and in pretty rapid fashion.

While easily the biggest name in the field right now, at least the one that's on the most lips when it comes to virtual reality technology, is the Oculus Rift, it may not be the main one for long. Recent reports have emerged talking about a new Kickstarter project from several former Valve employees known as the CastAR system. CastAR is set to offer up both augmented reality and virtual reality, making it a challenger to not only the Oculus Rift, but potentially even to the Google Glass. The duo involved--Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson--started building the CastAR system while working at Valve, but after a job loss in February, that freed the pair up to work further on the solution, which is now on Kickstarter, seeking a total of $400,000 on the crowdfunding master site.

Given that the project had just over three quarters of that goal reached in a day, it suggests that this one's going to go off in grand style. But what makes this really impressive is that it's clearly got gaming in mind, with the including of the CastAR Wand, a controller complete with buttons and analog joystick that's set to work particularly well with gaming initiatives.

The CastAR system is noteworthy in that it doesn't just do virtual reality, but also augmented reality, making it essentially capable of playing in two different sandboxes at once. This assumes, of course, it works in full release as well as it seems to in the early going, but if it can do this, it opens itself up to be the practical equivalent of a Swiss army knife when it comes to wearable technology. It's still early stage stuff, of course, but the key point is the sheer potential of this development.

Perhaps one of the biggest selling points of the smartphone was its sheer utility; it wasn't exactly a master of any trade, but calling it a "jack of all trades" device isn't exactly out of line. The smartphone took pictures, took video, sent text messages and e-mails, played games, browsed the Internet, and, oh yeah, it also made and received phone calls, and all from a device that could be fit in most standard pants pockets. It replaced several different devices, and that made it formidable. It's possible that the CastAR system could become not just a gaming tool, but a complete communications and display tool besides. That's no mean feat, and one that could really open up the market.

The thought of several breeds of virtual reality device coming soon to stores is a thrilling one, and the idea that gaming could now be more immersive than ever before no less so. Only time will tell how it all works out, of course, but the end result has the potential to be truly great.
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