Alternate Realities, Simplified: Augmented and Virtual Reality Made Easy

American Libraries, November-December 2019 | Go to article overview

Alternate Realities, Simplified: Augmented and Virtual Reality Made Easy


Virtual and augmented reality are two of the fastest-growing areas of technology. While popular games like Pokemon Go and Harry Potter: Wizards Unite have introduced augmented reality (AR) to pop culture, the immersive and interactive aspects of virtual and augmented reality can increase engagement with learning as well. Short of creating a full-service virtual reality (VR) lab, libraries can make these technologies available to learners through common devices.

MERGE

While specialized VR equipment can be expensive and difficult to loan, MERGE offers a suite of apps and accessories to make augmented and virtual reality more accessible and portable through common technology including smartphones, tablets, and laptops.

The MERGE Cube is a small foam cube that, when used with its accompanying apps, allows users to hold and manipulate virtual objects in augmented or virtual reality. Free and paid apps for the cube can be downloaded through MERGE's Miniverse.io website, including games, 360-degree video, and educational content. The Object Viewer app, included with Cube purchases and as part of the MERGE EDU platform, converts 3D object files into virtual objects that can be viewed and manipulated with the Cube. Object Viewer includes a 3D object library, and users can also upload their own models, including 3D print files.

The MERGE Headset turns most smartphones (4.84-6.22 inches in length) into a VR viewer. It's made with soft, antimicrobial foam padding for comfort and durability. The headset pairs with the MERGE Cube and related apps through Miniverse.io.

For school libraries and those with ongoing education programs, the MERGE EDU platform combines the Object Viewer app and Explorer, a suite of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)-aligned AR learning apps created by educators and curated by MERGE.

MERGE's library program bundle includes licenses for 30 concurrent users on its EDU platform and 30 free cubes, along with training for library staff on using the platform and marketing it to students and patrons, as well as Q&A support as needed.

The MERGE library pack is $2,495 per year, with custom licenses available. MERGE Cubes and Headsets can also be purchased individually, and libraries receive a 20% educational discount. …

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