When I first tried out the Samsung Gear VR, I immediately reached out with my hands. I didn’t have a Leap Motion attachment and I knew that my hands weren’t actually tracked, but the overwhelming sense of presence when I tried VR for the very first time was enough to momentarily fool me. For a few seconds, I really wanted to touch the digital world in front of me.
Now Merge VR is trying to make that sort of sensation actually possible with its new device simply called the HOLO CUBE.
The HOLO CUBE works by assigning a litany of QR codes and patterns to each side of the box, which are tracked and read by your phone’s camera. The phone is placed inside of a Google Cardboard-esque Merge VR headset with a little window so it can see the cube at all times. The visuals are then interpreted as various objects, games, puzzles, and other effects to create the sensation that instead of holding a small cube in the real world, you’re actually interacting with a magical box of light and wonder. It’s a clever trick, but we haven’t seen how well it works for ourselves yet.
“We want to unlock an entirely new digital world for children that’s always safe, exciting, positive, and playful,” said Merge VR co-founder Andrew Trickett in a prepared statement. “HOLO CUBE continues what we started with our revolutionary soft goggles, and it’s just the beginning. We are developing an entire line of products that will create more magical experiences for kids everywhere.”
Some of the experiences included range from drawing small works of art, creating music, caring for a tiny handheld pet, building blocks, and solving puzzles. The HOLO CUBE is just the first step in this direction of tracked objects we can interact with. A more robust environment may look something like what we saw from Perception Neuron’s Project Alice earlier this year.
“Toys are the tools we use for growing up, and our HOLO CUBE offers brand new ways to learn, play, and connect with others,” said Merge VR Founder Franklin Lyons. “Rather than using the typical interfaces of 2D screens, we’re developing physical products that merge the real world with the digital, and creating new ways for imagination and creativity to flourish.”
Merge VR is showing the HOLO CUBE at CES 2017 this week in Las Vegas, NV and we will report back with impressions and more detailed thoughts when the opportunity arises.