Merge, the company behind an augmented reality cube for kids, has created a blaster that combines with a smartphone to give a fun, interactive AR gaming experience.
The Merge 6DoF (6 Degrees of Freedom) Blaster is a bright green and purple contraption. It sports four physical button but on its own is just a chunky lump of plastic. However, pair it with a smartphone (an iPhone X, in our case) and it becomes a very different device.
The "blaster" uses positional tracking via the phone's accelerometer which tracks users as they manoeuvre around virtual worlds by moving, ducking and jumping in the real one. The six degrees of freedom, as referenced in the name, represents the six-axis of movement that the blaster and app can track.
When you duck in real life, for example, so does the virtual you in the game.
All the visuals are displayed on the screen and the bigger the phone the better for a great view. Sadly, you can't go as far as an iPad Mini or Amazon Fire Tablet, but it's great fun with a larger smartphone. All the controls are off screen and on the blaster.
Currently in early stages of development, the company is offering an SDK (Software Developers Kit) to game developers to enable them to build their own AR/VR experiences that work with the 6DoF device.
To show proof of concept, Merge created a simple shoot 'em up that sees you having to pick off enemy soldiers in waves as they storm a room you're in, You have to dodge, dive, dip and duck your way out of trouble before the next wave of bad guys comes along.
In our five minutes of play it was surprisingly fun. The app blaster combo certainly shows the potential of the Merge 6DoF. The smartphone worked flawlessly to track our movements as we moved around a cornered-off stage on the company's booth at CES in Las Vegas. Once again though, we advise that you use as big a screen as possible to really immerse yourself in the experience.
The Merge 6DoF Blaster is expected to hit retail shelves this summer. The company haven't stated a price yet, but hinted to Pocket-lint that it could be around £50 as the "magic" is in the accompany apps rather than the physical hardware.