Holograms in Your Hand – An Unsolicited Review of the Merge Cube

   What to do on a snowed-in morning?? After shoveling the deck, driveway, and sidewalk of course!

   Learn more about the Merge Cube
   The Merge Cube is foam block with what looks like QR Codes on every side. WIth the Merge Cube software or App the device camera will project a 3D image onto the Merge Cube. Rotating the cube shows all sides or views of the object in what looks like a holographic image. So after seeing some posts about the Merge Cube and being the curious type I purchased a 2-pack of the Merge Cube. One for me and one for my granddaughter!

   The software (Apps) is in 2 parts and available for either Android or IOS, and PC or Mac.
   To download from the web site you do not have to commit to the trial. When selected the PC software comes from the Microsoft Store and installed on both my laptop and my desktop PC. The same downloads are available at the Apple Store. The cellphone Apps come from either the Google Play Store or the Apple Store.
Merge Explorer
Merge Object Viewer
Go to this web site for downloads:
https://mergeedu.com/trial

The Hubble Space Telescope with the Object Viewer


Merge Cube Experiences (downloads)
https://miniverse.io/cube

   I’m not sure about the pricing for the additional Cube Apps, or objects from the Merge Cube web site. You could subscribe for a cost but there are some free alternatives from making your own to editing other designs to simply downloading.

   So far I have found two websites and a cellphone App for working with 3D images. Both are sources for 3D objects to purchase, download and or create or edit. Both can export objects that work with the Merge Cube.
Sketchfab (online) and PC, Mac, mobile (Android OS and IOS)
http://sketchfab.com
Tinkercad (online)
https://www.tinkercad.com/

Solar System Viewed with the Explorer

   The Merge Cube is a handheld object so I wondered how it would be used in a group setting – assuming the audience will not be using a 3D viewer – the presenter is the only one ‘equipped’.

   Since the software is installed on my laptop I found out, duh, that it would work using the built-in camera. With that in mind simply hooking up to a projection system allows the audience to see the 3D object. These two screen grab pictures were taken using both programs. The Solar System using the Explorer and HST with Object Viewer. A sort of downside is that your face is part of what is projected as well!!

   Got a Webcam? I still have a couple of these and with a USB connection to my laptop or desktop PC the camera could be used to move around the cube rather then moving the cube in front of the camera. Not quite the same experience but it works!

   This could also work if the presenter is wearing a VR type viewer, either goggles or the cellphone holder type, if it is connected directly to a projection system or to a projection system via a connected PC. With a cellphone this may be using something like Chromecast. Again the audience would see what the presenter sees, but by way of the video projection.

Further Questions??
   Will the Merge Cube work if members of the audience all have 3D viewers but only the presenter is holding the cube?
Could they aim their respective cellphone toward the object and see it as 3D?
Is there a limiting distance between the camera and the merge cube?

IMHO:

Merge Cube with an Ipad tablet

   First thing I noticed is that I needed 3 hands! You have to hold the cube in one hand and then manipulate the image on the screen with the other hand. Trying to hold the cube in the camera field of view while then using your fingers on the other hand to zoom in or out, select labels,etc. at least for me was a challenge. The picture shows a kiddo using a tablet which makes more sense than using a cellphone because the tablet is stationary while a cellphone may not be. I use a mini-tripod for holding my cellphone freeing up my hands for ‘cubeing’.

Individual Users

   If a classroom already has 3D viewers like the Google Cardboard, or other makes, and assuming the kids have a cellphone with the App installed and each one has a Merge Cube then this could make for interesting learning experiences.

   Activity plans are available for download and reading but the few I looked at seemed rather light and were things I would think any Teacher using the Merge Cube would have already thought of doing or asking.

   To me the Merge Cube would be fun and engaging but I think the hologram technology is not quite ready for really good use in the classroom. What I am waiting for is a way to have a group experience where everyone wears a 3D Viewer and sees and hears an avatar, a graphic character or figure, representing each of the participants in the group. Imagine the field trip or classroom extension possibilities as you walk or swim along with your students or the audience.

   
   
   

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Uranus at Eastern Quadrature – 2019

   Thursday January 23rd the position of the planet Uranus with respect to the Earth and the Sun places this ringed planet at what is called eastern quadrature. Uranus is at a 90 degree angle from the Earth. Think first quarter Moon as that is a fair comparison of the relative positions of the Earth, the Sun, and Uranus – or any outer planet. At this position Uranus follows the Sun across the sky from east to west as the Earth is rotating, meaning that Uranus rises after the Sun and sets after the Sun.

   So, where is Uranus? Look over the southwestern horizon after sunset for the stars making up the constellation of Aries the Ram. In particular look for the brighter star Hamal. About 11-12o down to the left from Hamal is the outer ringed planet Uranus.

   With a 5.78 apparent magnitude Uranus is just bright enough to be seen with binoculars as perhaps a very small dot. In the graphic I have enlarged the planet to make it more easy to see. Uranus is at about the naked-eye limit of visibility (6th magnitude)so it would take extremely dark skies to see it without optical assistance. Off to the right and lower are the four stars making up the familiar “Square of Pegasus” asterism.

   
   
   

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January Moon at Descending Node


   Wednesday morning January 22nd the waning crescent Moon crosses the plane of the ecliptic moving south. This is known as the descending node, one of two intersections the Moon’s orbital path (dark green line) has with the ecliptic.

   On the date of the descending node the 27-day old thin waning crescent Moon will be about 4o to the west from the outer ringed planet Jupiter. Both rise within an hour of local time for sunrise.

   
   
   
   
   

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Sun Enters Capricornus not Aquarius- – 2019


 Monday January 20th at 9 UT the Sun in its apparent eastward motion along the ecliptic enters the boundaries of the constellation Capricornus the Sea Goat. This is the actual location of the Sun.
   Interestingly, according to the pseudoscience of astrology, 6 hours later, at 15 UT Monday January 20th, the Sun should be entering the constellation of Aquarius the Water Bearer.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Moon, Mars, and Antares

   Monday morning January 20th, as they all rise together, the 25-day old waning crescent Moon will be within 5o from the planet ‘red planet’ Mars and the red star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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Mars on the Move

   Friday morning January 17th, before sunrise, the last quarter Moon will be about 5-6o from the blue-white star Spica in Virgo the Harvest Maiden. However the celestial highlight coming up is further east or lower and closer to the eastern horizon where there are two reddish-colored objects of about the same apparent brightness or magnitude. One object is the planet Mars and the other is the star Antares in Scorpius the Scorpion.

click on animated graphic to see it larger

Mars passing Antares – January 17-23 – 6 am CST

   Watch over the next several mornings and you will be able to determine which one is Mars and which is Antares as one of them moves past the other – as this animated graphic is showing. Also, relative to Mars and Antares the Moon is waning in phase as it zips past the two.

   There is an interesting connection between the star Antares and the planet Mars, based on their similar reddish color. There are times like this year when the two are close and part of the mythology surrounding the two suggests that the star was given its name so as to not confuse it with the planet Mars. The name Antares comes from the Greek word translated to ‘Rival of Mars’.

   Whenever that was historically Mars was probably known as one of the ‘wandering stars’ from the Greek word ‘planetai’. So with its reddish color, like blood, this ‘wandering star’ came to represent Mars, the ‘G-d of War’. Antares, on the other hand is a red supergiant star with a diameter estimated to be such that if it were at the center of our solar system Antares would fill the solar system out to around the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

   
   
   

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Mornings Have Hang Ups!

   Northern Hemisphere winter in addition to chilly or cold mornings may sort of warm you, at least in your mind. If you are outside looking at the sky, over the eastern horizon is a large triangular shape of three bright stars. One star each from three different constellations. Deneb in Cygnus the Swan, Vega in Lyra the Harp, and Altair in Aquila the Eagle. This is the asterism (star pattern but not a constellation) the Summer Triangle. There, warmer now?!
   So if you are outside checking out the Summer Triangle, or perhaps Mars and nearby Antares and you have an optical aid like binoculars or a lower power wide-field eyepiece in your telescope aim them and your eyes toward the star Altair. In dark enough skies you can make out the stars making up Sagitta the Arrow a few degrees away from Altair.
   As Altair is rising and with binoculars move the field of view up to the left until the stars of Sagitta fill the field of view. This small constellation, yes a constellation, could be used as a sort of pointer stars to look a few degrees away for a small open star cluster, Brocchi’s Cluster, or more commonly known as the ‘Coathanger Cluster’.
   So if mornings with stars like this don’t warm you up then wait a few months of Earth revolution and these same stars will be showing up in the warmer evening skies of Northern Hemisphere summer and fall.

   
   
   

Click here to go to the Qué tal in the Current Skies web site for monthly observing information, or here to return to bobs-spaces.


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