Thursday, April 4, 2019

Merge Cube: The New Reality of Toys

Merge Cube: The New Reality of Toys, Education...and Everything Else

By Adam Furgang - Wednesday April, 3, 2019

At first glance the Merge Cube appears to be just a simple foam cube that resembles the puzzle box from the Hellraiser films. However, with a cell phone (something everyone now has) a few Google or Apple apps, and an optional VR headset, this foam cube springs to life tossing you headfirst into the new world of augmented reality. The Merge Cube also uses virtual reality, virtual holograms, 3D modeling, STEM, mini Minecraft style sandbox games, and more. In fact, the moment I used this my head exploded at the simple realization that this is the newest, simplest, earliest version of the gargantuan direction this new technology will be taking everything in the years to come. Everything from games, films, music, learning, driving, relaxing, medicine, and a hundred other things I can't even think of will all eventually be using this technology.

I bought this on a hunch for my son. He just turned 12. He loves Minecraft so when I saw the Minecraft-like app that is available and how cheap the Merge Cube is, I decided it was a good safe bet. Boy was I right. The Dig app alone made this a worthy purchase. We already have the VR goggles on order. The goggles will free up one hand from having to hold the phone as it will sit in the goggles and act as a screen. The Merge Cube does come with a stand for placing your phone in so you don't need to hold it. I like this stand because it cleverly repurposes the typically discarded packing material into something useful. There is also a small stand to keep your cube on a shelf along with an activation code. This code is kind of a hassle. Possession of the cube itself should be enough to work with the many free apps. I'm guessing the powers that be are worried about imitation cubes so the code is an extra level of security for them. Once you set up an account logging in is fairly simple. I did make my sons account and gave him an adult birthday date so he would not have any restrictions. I get the safety issues for kids. Whether or not the birthday date safety stuff actually adds real-world safety is debatable. It does often add layers of complexity for kids though. If you are a good and attentive parent then all will likely be fine.

As soon as my son started using the Merge Cube with his cell phone he was up and running in no time. He needed no guidance or instructions from me and was familiar with some of the games which have likely been recreated (like Minecraft) from elsewhere.

Here is a short video of a treehouse he built with the Dig app.

With the Dig app you can save your 3D creations for others to see. You can also load other people's creations up and alter them. This communal creation reminds me of Scratch. I could see Scratch programming coming to this soon. Here are a few screenshots of the treehouse he built and a few other creations we loaded up. 

Remember, these creations can all be spun 360 degrees while holding the Merge Cube and looking at it via your phone's camera. It is simple and incredible all at once. And this is just one app. Here is a link to the many available apps. There are a few that cost money. We have not paid for anything yet but I think Rubik's Cube app is coming to our cell phones soon. 

The possibilities for education are endless. Here is the link to the Merge Cube EDU Platform. It's being billed as "A Single AR/VR Platform for Active Learning." 

I think they are correct. This is the direction education is headed. Check out this solar system gif:

Very obvious educational value for anyone

Here are a few handy Merge Cube Links

Merge Cube Press Articles —Merge Graphics & Media Downloads can be found on this page too and are helpful if you need Merge graphics or media for a blog posts such as this. :)

As we create more with the merge Cube I will add to this post or create a new one. 

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Please be respectful with all comments. This is just a hobby for me.