Merged VR: Augmented Reality Cubed

There is considerable development activity at the high end of hardware and content creation for virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as such AR aliases as mixed reality, extended reality and others.

Most industry investment is aimed at leading-edge gaming and industrial application development. However, the low-end of the market is also worth looking at, to see how people and institutions without big budgets — consumers and education — might adopt these technologies sooner, rather than waiting years for all the advancements to trickle down to lower price points.

An example of AR done on a more human-friendly scale is Merge VR. Its founders seem to have taken the hint from The Graduate (“One word: plastics”), added software and a bit of creativity, and then applied it to AR.

First, Merge VR built a soft plastic headset (which they call “goggles”) that fits any smartphone, even the largest. The optics worked well for me. The physical controls to adjust the optics are easy to use, the headset is comfortable to wear, the plastic is easy to clean, and it is inexpensive (US$60 retail in mid August 2017). Two indirect touch buttons provide limited in-app touch control while the smartphone is mounted in the headset. Cord management is easy — both for keeping the smartphone powered and for plugging in headphones.

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