Merge Cube looks like something out of National Treasure. It’s a handheld block emblazoned with iconography and weird hieroglyphics, and it’s hard not imagine Ben Gates trying to figure out what the hell it means. What he doesn’t know, of course, is that this augmented reality toy for kids needs to be cracked not with some ancient code, but a smartphone camera. When that happens, it turns into a damn hologram. But not of the Declaration of Independence. Sorry.
Showcased at this year’s World Mobile Congress and Toy Fair, Merge Cube is a highly anticipated add-on to Merge’s virtual-reality goggles that lets kids hold a hologram in their hands. It essentially combines virtual reality with Pokémon Go-styled augmented reality and requires little more than installing one of the free game and learning apps (iOS or Android) on a smartphone or tablet and pointing it at the cube. While the Merge Cube doesn’t actually change in real life, on screen it turns into a Rubik’s Cube, a human heart, planets revolving around the sun, etc. Maybe Princess Lei asking for Obi Wan’s help. Definitely, still, not the Declaration of Independence.
Surprisingly, you don’t even need Merge’s VR glasses to make the cube work ⏤ the Merge Cube has both a phone and VR mode. Although if you do use glasses (which essentially lock in a smartphone), you get both hands free to manipulate the cube. So playing games like Solve! (a holographic Rubik’s Cube) or Snake, a holographic version of the classic phone game, become much easier. There are also educational apps like the anatomy-teaching Mr. Body and Galactic Explorer, which lets you hold the entire solar system in the palm of your hand.
The Merge Cube hit store shelves this month and is being sold exclusively at Walmart for $15.