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Ambitious augmented reality startup CastAR reportedly shuts down

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Four-year-old augmented reality company CastAR has reportedly shut down. According to Polygon, which spoke to former employees, the company was unable to get more funding from either its present backer or any new companies. It reportedly laid off nearly its entire staff yesterday, leaving a core team behind to seek a buyer for its AR tech. We’ve reached out to CastAR to confirm the reports.

CastAR was founded by two ex-Valve employees, Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, in 2013. It made a pair of augmented reality glasses that could project images onto a reflective mat, letting users interact with a wand. The project was originally Kickstarter-funded, but CastAR returned backers’ money after getting outside funding and delaying its release. The company was supposed to launch its glasses in 2017; in preparation, it even opened an internal games studio run by developers who worked on Disney Infinity. Polygon writes that this studio has also been shut down.

This news comes at a time when augmented reality is getting a lot of good press — but mostly as a phone-based, not glasses-based, technology. And CastAR was always going to face challenges creating a functional, affordable consumer product without much name recognition. The need for a reflective mat made it less versatile than other AR glasses, and in the years it’s spent honing the technology, we’ve seen increasingly impressive products like Microsoft’s HoloLens. Augmented reality is growing up, but CastAR might not be coming with it.