I've tried out a handful of different virtual reality headsets at CES, but nothing compares to Merge VR. I'd even say it's one of the most innovative pieces of tech I've sampled so far. Admittedly, I made a beeline for the Merge VR booth because I spotted the pyramid of colorful headsets from across the room. They reminded me of video game consoles from the early 90's. The purple headset even looked a little like the first generation Game Boy Color, a special handheld device that got me through many car rides.
I was blown away by how comfortable the headset is. Instead of hard plastic, the goggles are made of foam-like material. You can even throw it safely across the room if you really want to. I've worn more expensive headsets that were unbearable after 20 minutes. Not only am I prone to headaches, I'm also prone to motion sickness. So, for me, a comfortable headset makes all the difference. The Merge VR goggles currently retail at $59.99, which is less than the Gear VR. I was able to wear them with my glasses, too.
For some reason, I never liked the idea of dropping your smartphone into a headset. I hate to say it, but smartphones overheat from time to time, especially when there's a lot of apps open. They're just not powerful enough to keep up with the demands of VR. I never thought you could get a truly immersive experience out of a smartphone headset, but Merge VR proved me wrong.
The Holo Cube, an interactive toy, was on display at the booth. I kept squeezing it like a stress ball. When I strapped the headset on and fired up the demo, I quickly realized I was in for an augmented reality experience, and not a virtual reality experience. If you've no idea what I'm talking about, augmented reality combines a real world environment with digital content. In other words, if you've played Pokémon Go, then you've played an augmented reality game.
Even though I was wearing the headset, I could still see the conference room. Soon enough, the cushiony cube vanished in the blink of an eye. It was now a four-dimensional hologram of a city. When I looked closer, I could see tiny cars driving along the streets. Whoa.