Our hardware news recap for the week of 11/14 is now live on YouTube, covering a few primary topics: GPU shipment volume, a new Cherry MX Nature White switch, ASUS' move to Augmented Reality, nVidia's GameWorks VR / UE4 integration, and Corsair's HG10 updated for the 900 series. 

You can find the video news recap below. This week, for those who stay up on the site, we'll primarily be working on Star Wars Battlefront content. We've also got some power supply stuff going live shortly, alongside the video version of our Black Ops optimization guide (live in a few hours from this posting).

CastAR, formerly Technical Illusions, recently got a big boost in the form of a 15-million dollar venture capital investment. The company plans to use that money to deliver on promises to their original Kickstarter backers and push the product into a complete state. GN was able to spend an hour with castAR CEO David Henkel-Wallace and cofounder Rick Johnson to see where things stand and where the company is going.

CastAR is a head-mounted, augmented reality technology that deploys a set of projectors and lenses to cast a 3-dimensional image to a reflective sheet. When we say that castAR is an HMD, we don’t mean in the “expected” sense – it’s not like the Rift or HTC’s impressive Vive, but is more akin to nVidia’s 3D Vision glasses in form factor. CastAR is billed as a solution for multiplayer and singleplayer AR gaming, to include traditional tabletop emulation (D&D, miniatures, Magic, Jenga) and new games.

A great many cyberpunk novelists would turn green at the AR & VR revolution occurring right now. The two approaches to gaming immersion are vastly different in technological and philosophical scope – we've already recapped the history of virtual reality – but both are critical to the advancement of electronics. Outside of the usual medical and military use cases, both augmented reality and virtual reality components were on tremendous gaming showcase at CES 2015.

Following technological and monetary hindrances, one of virtual reality's biggest impediments to market has been usability. We worked with Sixense and Oculus VR after PAX Prime to write an article detailing the history and future of VR & AR technology, where some of these difficulties were discussed; since this posting, Oculus VR has engineered a 1080p, relatively low-latency version of their headset and facebook has acquired the company and its Rift. A lot has changed in a few months.

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At ECGC 2014 -- the same place we filmed our interview with Morrowind's Ken Rolston -- we managed to catch a virtual reality panel hosted by NextGen Interactions' Jason Jerald. The panel discussed usability and input hurdles in virtual reality, information conveyance, fun VR experiments featuring virtual pits and scared players, and the future of VR. A video of the panel can be found below, but I've picked out a few key highlights for those who'd rather read a quick recap.

Using an Occulus Rift headset, a 3D-printed bracket, and a Creative 3D camera (shown previously), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are taking another step in the right direction. SoftKinetic, a company that specializes in 3D depth-sensing and gesture recognition, allowed us to use our hands for what they called "natural interaction in a convincingly smooth 3D demonstration." In other words, furthering of perceptual input technology and movement away from traditional input devices.

softkinetic-2SoftKinetic's demo had us manipulating building blocks in 3D space with our hands as input devices.

Before getting too deep in this post, you might be interested to learn about the history of virtual reality & augmented reality, which we recently explored with companies Oculus VR, Sixense, and Virtuix.

The concept of a "virtual" reality has existed for decades and has nebulous origins, but the first technological steps can be pinpointed to Ivan Sutherland's head-mounted display (HMD); the device, lovingly-dubbed the Sword of Damocles for its massive size and imposing demeanor, was built in 1968 and placed the user into wireframe rooms. The term itself, "Virtual Reality," didn't even popularly exist until 1985.

Since Sutherland's pioneering innovations, the industry has had disorienting cycles of ups-and-downs for Augmented & Virtual Reality tech. There were holes in the yet-unfolding plot: Missing technology (we'd only just moved from tubes to transistors), a smaller pool of talent, and the interest and funding were primarily in medical or military-industrial fields.

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The equipment that was purpose-built for those fields made tremendous technological leaps, but would by-and-large never be faced with a consumer. And, as with many technologies that started in the military, much of the early VR/AR equipment was classified.

The timing for this advancement in augmented reality is particularly convenient, given our content plan to publish a large virtual reality article in the next day or two. Ramping into this article, though, we'll talk briefly about Technical Illusions' castAR glasses.

cast-AR-sliderThe castAR system uses light and holography to produce an interactive, real-world 3D projection.

As opposed to the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality head-mounted display (HMD) that enhances gaming experiences by improving player immersion, castAR takes the augmented reality approach. Augmented & Virtual Reality are similar in their dedication to immersion and fidelity, but differentiate themselves in implementation; AR devices generally augment the real world (already used in psychiatry and psychology), while VR tends to stick with digitally-rendered environments.

Up until castAR, there wasn't a whole lot out there in terms of modern AR on the consumer-level. Technical Illusions' kickstarter video offers insight as to what the pair of glasses could be used for, showing two of its developers playing chess in "real life" without use of any physical pieces:

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