Merge Cube – The Hologram You Hold in Your Hand

Today I picked up a Merge Cube, the price was right (~USD 15) and there has been positive press about the product since CES, so I figured I didn’t have much to lose.  I love trying new tech, especially when marketed to the masses (mobile phone versus high-end PC) and the education market.  The Cube is about the size of a Rubik’s cube and made of soft foam material.  It feels like a stress ball (cube!) in your hand.  The patterns on the Cube immediately bring joy to my inner kid, It’s alien-like pattern is futuristic, and it’s fun to hold.

Presently, there are a few free apps that support the cube; I picked Things to try and may purchase one or two of the paid apps later ($0.99 to $2.99 each).  The onboarding experience for apps includes a short tutorial on how to target (focus on a button) and tap on the screen to make a selection choice.  The tutorial doesn’t require placing the phone into the Merge VR Goggles or Google Cardboard.  I believe they support most mobile sets.  After completing the short tutorial, you can select a 3D animated model to explore.  Models are viewed in either phone or virtual reality mode.  The tracking of the Cube is well done (tested on iPhone 7) and uses vuforia technology.  This product, even without a VR headset should be a favorite item this holiday season.  The target demographic appears to be younger kids. However, I think elders will also find this to be an engaging experience.  I can think of a handful of utility apps that may be fun to build for the Cube for any age group.  True Augmented Reality is still years away.  However, it’s quite amazing what Merge VR accomplished with existing mobile phones, basic tracking, and a squishy toy. +1 for making the Cube squishy!

+1 for making the Cube squishy!

The Cube apps wisely include a recording option, so here’s me looking at a skull from the Things app.

Merge VR is taking applications for their developer program and have provided developer documentation too.  It’s Unity based and requires that you also have a vuforia developer account.  Merge Cube may be a fun product to build something with at a VR Hackathon!

Note on Google Cardboard

Depending on the size of your phone, you may have to cut a hole out of the front flap so the camera can see the cube.  You may be able to slide the phone to the side somewhat and get it work without doing that, but, then it’s hard to use the Cardboard button to tap the screen.