One of the most magical AR demos I’ve ever had a chance to see was Tilt Five at Augmented World Expo 2021. Jeri Ellsworth stumbled upon a complete paradigm shift towards AR while she was at Valve and accidentally had a beam splitter turned around and it was shooting beams of light that happened to hit some retroreflective material another Valve engineer was experimenting with. She saw a beautiful, high-contrast image that inspired her to continue to develop this idea into a fully-fledged, tabletop gaming focused AR headset that she was able to acquire from Valve after getting fired, go through another startup cycle of beginning and ending of castAR with too broad of a focus, and then eventually into Tilt Five, which has been much more laser-focused on tabletop gaming.
I had a chance to catch up with Ellsworth during a busy AWE showing, where she shared quite a lot of details about her journey into XR really starting with helping to bootstrap Valve’s hardware division, some of the internal dynamics there, her journey with castAR, and then finally with her latest efforts with Tilt Five. They should be shipping out their Kickstarter units here soon. It’s a completely different and unique approach to AR, and it’s also one that creates some pretty magical experiences when focused on a table-top gaming retroreflective material. It really feels like this is a device that is going to bootstrap quite a lot of innovation with AR gaming and the affordances of tabletop holograms, and I look forward to see how it continues to develop. But definitely keep an eye on Tilt Five, and try it out for yourself to see how they’ve been able to bring the magic of holograms to live with their Tilt Five glasses.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE OF THE VOICES OF VR PODCAST
Here’s a previous interview with Ellsworth conducted by Valve News Network’s Tyler McVicker that I mentioned in this interview.
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