Augmented reality startup CastAR has been shut down as nearly 70 employees have reportedly been laid off and the Eat Sleep Play studio in Salt Lake City shuttered, according to former employees of the firm. Founded by former Valve employees Jeri Ellsworth and Rick Johnson, CastAR kicked off four years ago based on the augmented reality research that the two brought with them when they left their former employer. Of course, the two asked for permission to take the AR research with them. The startup then found financial backing from Andy Rubin’s design lab Playground. But investments from Playground Global were discontinued last week and funding from other potential investors did not materialize, CastAR’s former employees reveal. It makes sense then for the startup to shut down, having no other means to financially support its ambitious plans, one of which is to launch a self-contained AR glass later in 2017.
Most of the people that were laid off include employees from CastAR’s Palo Alto headquarters and its Salt Lake City studio, which consists of former Eat Sleep Play and Avalanche Software employees. Eat Sleep Play, which developed the 2012 reboot of Twisted Metal, came to join CastAR last year along with former developers from Avalanche Software. The team then opened a new studio in Salt Lake City that devoted its resources to AR software development. Only a handful of employees are now left with the company to sell its existing technology, according to a recent report. CastAR has yet to release an official statement about the layoff and the company’s future. The news comes amid a promising time for AR, which one Facebook executive predicted would serve as a replacement for smartphones in the future.
CastAR was initially launched on Kickstarter in October 2013, raising more than a million dollars by the time the campaign closed. The total amount of money raised was way more than the startup’s initial goal of $400,000. The company then produced developer units of CastAR for several Kickstarter backers and developers using the money. Eventually, the company relocated to a Silicon Valley office from Johnson’s home using some seed money raised before CastAR turned to Playground Global, from which it was able to raise $15 million. Now that Playground Global declined to invest any more in CastAR, it remains to be seen what future lies ahead for the company.