Although Valve co-founder Gabe Newell said that the company had not canceled any projects during February's layoffs
, two of the affected employees have revealed an AR project they were working on when they were let go.
Hardware engineer Jeri Ellsworth and programmer Rick Johnson were working on augmented reality glasses at Valve for more than a year, and after losing their jobs recently, the pair has continued to build the prototype.
Ellsworth and Johnson have now formed Technical Illusions, and have told The Verge
that they plan to commercialize the tech.
CastAR projects a miniature virtual reality in front of your eyes, and allows you to interact with whatever it is you can see. The tech utilizes a combination of images beamed from a connected PC, and a retroreflective project screen.
Ellsworth says that the AR tech can be used for numerous video game applications, including Skylanders
-esque virtual toy games -- one demo the team is showing off uses RIFD tokens to make Team Fortress 2
characters pop up.
The Technical Illusions team says that the tech is currently very early in development, and that a Kickstarter campaign is on the way this summer, following in the footsteps of the Oculus Rift
As for why Valve dropped the project, Johnson says that the company was more interested in virtual reality technology than AR tech, given that the former is more suited to first-person shooters -- hence why there has been support from Valve for the Oculus Rift
Fortunately, Valve was happy to give the duo the rights to carry on building the tech. "Gabe was completely behind it," noted Ellsworth. "I talked to Gabe, and he talked to the lawyers, and he's like, 'It's theirs, make it happen,' because he could see we were passionate about it."