LAS VEGAS, NV -- At CES 2018, Merge revealed the latest addition to its growing VR and AR hardware catalog. The company offers a portable smartphone VR headset with a camera passthrough that enables AR experiences. And last year, Merge introduced the Merge Cube, a physical object that enhances AR experiences. Now, Merge is back with a gun peripheral for smartphone-based AR experiences.
The Merge 6DoF Blaster is a green and purple, two-handed gun peripheral that looks like its out of a cartoon. It features two handles with triggers for each hand and two additional buttons for interaction. And as the name implies, the blaster offers six degrees of freedom (6DoF) positional tracking.
Merge described the 6DoF Blaster as a VR peripheral, but it’s more of an augmented reality device. It doesn’t require a VR headset; instead, it uses your smartphone to provide a headset-free augmented reality experience. The top of the 6DoF Blaster features a slot to dock your phone so you can look through it while you’re holding the peripheral.
“What we’ve created is an intuitive and accessible virtual reality product and platform for the mass market. We can deliver a high-end, positionally tracked VR experience and put it in a form factor that’s easy to use,” said Merge Founder Franklin Lyons in a press release. “Merge 6DoF Blaster is a breakthrough product that will make virtual reality more practical for users and great for developers to build innovative gaming experiences.”
Merge said that it plans to ship 6DoF Blaster developer kits “sometime in early 2018” so that creators can start building interesting content for the device. Merge also plans to release the manufacturing specifications so that other hardware makers can build peripherals for Merge’s platform.
“Our blaster uses technology that makes all previous VR/AR blasters obsolete, so companies interested in creating their own will want to make them Merge-compatible,” said Merge VP of Creative Jeremy Kenisky in the release. “This is great opportunity for manufacturers, because their customers will have access to a wide range of content, and it’s great for developers because their software will reach a larger audience.” Kenisky continued, “This arrangement works well for consumers, too, because it solves all compatibility issues. Any Merge-compatible blaster they buy will work with all the content available.”
Merge didn’t say how much it would charge for the 6DoF Blaster when it hits retail later this year. The company is aiming for a summer 2018 consumer launch.
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Kevin Carbotte is a contributing writer for Tom's Hardware who primarily covers VR and AR hardware. He has been writing for us for more than four years.