Hold a Solar System in your Hand with MERGE Cube

One of my new favorite augmented reality tools to hit the market is MERGE Cube. This unassuming little foam cube is a powerhouse when it comes to affordable AR. In this post I will just touch on some MERGE Cube basics. I’ll highlight some of my favorite apps, such as 57 North in upcoming posts. Today I just want to talk about the basics.

The Cube

MergeCube
MERGE Cube

The cube itself is a small squishy foam cube that looks like it is covered in alien glyphs. It is those glyphs or markings that make the cube work. When you scan the cube with your device, and look at through your screen, those strange symbols turn into something amazing! The first app I tried was Galactic Explorer.  I held the cube in my hand, opened the app, and, oh my goodness…I was holding the sun with eight tiny planets slowly orbiting. When I tapped on one of the planets, I zoomed in and there was an information bubble that told me about the planet. At that moment, I was hooked. Then I found Tilt Ball.

MERGECubeSun
Just me, Chilling on the couch, holding the solar system.

Tilt Ball reminds me of the old marble labyrinths of my childhood. Remember the ones with the tilty table? Tilt Ball is like that but you play in virtual space. Use the device to scan MERGE Cube with the app and now the cube is covered in a maze path. Your job is to move a marble through the maze by moving the cube. It takes way more hand eye coordination than you would expect.

I went on to try out several of the other free apps: Mr. Body, Th!ngs, Defused! and Dig!. All of them were easy to use and really kind of cool. Dig! is especially cool for all those MINECRAFT fans out there. Using MERGE Cube, and Dig! you can create MINECRAFT-like worlds in the palm of your hand. Good bye free time.

Pros and Cons

As I said before, I will dig deeper into specific apps later this month. I have a few favorites. As for the MERGE Cube in general, there are a lot of positives.

  • Cheap – To get started with MERGE Cube, you need a cube. I got mine on Amazon for $6.00. Yes, that is not a decimal point error. $6.00. I see them now for about $15.00 at all major stores. Also, save your packaging. It is a phone holder. You will need that!
  • Good free content – There are quite a few great free apps for the MERGE Cube. Many that will engage your students in this new technology and have them asking questions – which is always the point, right? You can find a list of some of the apps available over on the MERGE Cube Miniverse site.  There are some great paid apps too.
  • Growing body of content – It seems like everyday I read about a new app or some other companion app. The MERGE Cube ecosystem is growing for sure. I can’t wait to see what will be out this time next year.
  • Active AR – When VR and AR first came on to the scene, the engagement was very passive. You watched. With MERGE cube, it is much more interactive.
  • Active Community – I joined the MERGE Educators group on Facebook and love seeing all the creative ways educators are using MERGE cube in their classrooms. Get involved in their community and you will be amazed what you learn. Here is an article about some middle schools students who partnered with a local museum to create virtual exhibits. So cool! The ideas are endless.

I’m not sure if I have any cons. I really like the MERGE Cube. I now have 4.

I’ll dig deeper into classroom connections in later posts when I talk about some of the apps in more details. For now, my suggestion is to spend the $6 – $15 and get your hands on one of these.

Do you have a MERGE Cube? How are you using it? Tell me in the comments!

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