HoloCube VR by Merge – PAX South Hands-On

VR Gimmick or Unique Experience?

holocube demo model

I hadn’t done much during the designated press hour other than meet up with some friends, try to make a plan of attack, and raise some money with cookies.  I had a lot to look forward to during PAX South and I was getting to start it off by playing with something that made me tilt my head and have no idea what to expect. Merge VR had sent me a short email about the HoloCube and the one picture inside caught my eye. The best way to describe it was a cross between a Nerf case and a Gear VR paired with a tactile cube controller. I just had to know what this thing was.

The premise was simple. Put on the headset, hold up the HoloCube to scan it, and start playing. If the cube went out of vision, it would almost immediately re-scan with no wait times and be ready to play with again. Most of the use of the cube is with one hand while the other hand controls inputs to the cube from a button on the top of the headset. In the future, Merge is planning to have inputs on the cube which will create and much smoother user experience and allow for more complicated uses.

The strange cube controller worked incredibly well and was light and comfortable in my hand. I went back and forth with my arms to control the button on top of the headset, so that needs a definite change or there won’t be long single sessions of use. The whole package is sturdy. The headset and cube were thrown on the ground by the Merge attendants, with no damage to the headset and the cube just bounced around and was ready for the next demo. This device is pretty tough to say the least.

HoloCube Merge VR HeadsetsThere were 11 different technical demos on the Holocube, ranging from simple color changing to fully interactive gaming experiences. Here are a few highlights:

  • Color and design swapping demonstration: This could be useful for all types of design projects.
  • Fireworks: Button on top of the headset would shoot off fireworks from where the cube was positioned. The cube could be aimed and once the fireworks were shot off they could be visually followed while looking away from the cube.
  • Slot Machine: Simple demonstration of pressing the button on the headset to play. Just think about running all of these gachapon style mobile games in VR. I can only imagine how crazy things could be in Fire Emblem: Heroes with people trying to roll their augmented reality waifus.
  • Television: Different cartoons could be scrolled through as if changing channels. Great quick experience that could keep children busy for ages.
  • Human Anatomy: The cube was augmented to a skull and other parts of the human body which could be freely rotated and studied. This would be a great use in classrooms and would have definitely been something I could have used to skip weekend anatomy and physiology labs during college.
  • Minecraft type demo: All sides of the cube could be dug into or built on with multiple types of blocks. All sides were connected and I could dig straight through the entire cube. Once controls are built on to the cube I could see this glued to some people’s heads.

merge holocube promo

I went in expecting an uncomfortable gimmick, but left more than pleasantly surprised. I made a suggestion of a killer app for the HoloCube by implementing one of the most frustrating games I know. Add Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes and there would be a huge line waiting to get their hands on the HoloCube to test their mental toughness and gaming skills.

For more information on the Merge HoloCube VR system, check out their website.

Traveler, competitive eater, swag master, cookie brigadier, and promotional marketing genius. Choose one title or combine them all to figure out what Shane is on any day of the year. Also, tweet at him during PAX for cookie deliveries. (This isn't a joke.)

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