Merge Labs, a San Antonio-based company known for its inexpensive, toy-like AR/VR products, is making a Nerf-like toy gun that supports mixed reality games from a smartphone.
Called the “6DoF Blaster,” the plastic toy gun has a shoe for your smartphone, so you can prop a smartphone up where your gun sight would normally be. In the demo we saw at CES today, the iPhone X inside the gun was running a Merge VR first-person shooter game, one the company said was built on Apple’s ARKit platform. The gun has four buttons: a trigger, a reload button, a zoom button, and one that slows down enemy fire.
But the more interesting (and slightly confusing) part about the product is really its name, or rather what its name signifies. “6DoF” stands for six degrees of freedom, referring to the freedom of movement of a body or object in three-dimensional space. The phrase is used a lot in the virtual reality world, and it’s a desirable thing, because it basically means you can look all around you and move all around and still be in the virtual environment that’s been created.
In this case, Merge is using “6DoF” to describe what is effectively an augmented reality app; only, it’s not just AR either, because it’s not there’s any aspect of the real world visible through the app. It’s a kind of mixed reality, really, except mixed reality also applies to things like Microsoft’s HoloLens, so I don’t know, let’s just call this shruggie-reality.
In either case, Merge is known for its previous product, an inexpensive, $50 VR headset that uses $15 cubes as AR markers. It’s a nifty headset, one that works surprisingly well given its price. According to company co-founder Andrew Trickett, Merge has sold more than a million pairs of these VR goggles.
Merge hasn’t said how much the 6DoF Blaster will cost, just that it will ship sometime this summer and that Merge will open up its software kit so app developers can make apps for it. It’s also releasing the manufacturing specs of the toy, so other manufacturers make Blaster-compatible products.