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My job is to find cool stuff. Throughout the week I spend hours scouring the web for things that are useful or fun or ridiculously cheap. Often times, these choices coalesce into a guide of like items—for example, the ultimate guide to making cafe-style coffee in your own home or how to make the perfect cold-brew coffee. But I often stumble across some pretty awesome gear that doesn’t really fit into a list. So I made a list for those.
The Spicebox Books 4D science kit comes with 10 interactive science projects and hands-free goggles with a slot for your smartphone. The kit teaches users science with the help of augmented reality. After you download the app and place the phone into your goggles, a tiny animated scientist appears on the screen to teach you concepts from each experiment. Once the explanation is finished, you perform the experiments. The kit comes with a 30-page illustrated instruction booklet. $40
The Merge Cube was one of my first experiences with augmented or virtual reality products. The camera on your phone turns the soft foam Merge Cube into a palm-sized holographic toy allowing you to interacted with 3D objects in AR. Once you put the goggles on, the Merge Cube becomes a virtual hub for education, games, and puzzles. The Merge Cube software works with iOS and Android. $30.
Shifu Safari is an educational augmented reality game that uses 60 animal cards and your smartphone to provide engaging info about wildlife habitats, sounds, and diets. It’s recommended for ages 2-10 and is compatible with both Android and iOS. They also have a Shifu Space card set. $26.
The Curiscope Virtuali-Tee teaches human anatomy through an AR app on your phone. The app reads symbols on the included t-shirt in order to map the anatomy models onto your body. After you’ve downloaded the app, aim your camera at the shirt and explore 360-degree videos of “your” bloodstream, lungs, and other body parts. Click on specific body areas and the app’s “anatomy expert” Hans Glover will tell you how each system works. $30.
This is the priciest AR item on the list, but it will make you feel like a Jedi master, so you tell me if that’s worth it. Play a couple rounds of Holochess or pick up a lightsaber and take on waves of stormtroopers and droids—or even a Sith Lord like Darth Maul. The set comes with a headset, lightsaber, and a tracking beacon. $200.
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