AR to add content
One of the best features of incorporating AR into a toy is that it makes it possible to give the player added information. For instance, Shifu Orboot has developed an interactive globe that gives children an interesting range of educational topics to learn about that cover different characteristics of each part of the world. They present the information (countries‘ flags, animals, culture, weather, cuisine, monuments, etc.) playfully while the child moves a physical globe and checks things that are shown on its smart device. For example, kids can learn about animals from a specific country as they feed them digitally. This offers a more engaging way to learn through actual play
Ravensburger has been developing wonderful puzzles in the last couple of years that offer the player the option to explore things beyond the flat image itself by using their smartphone after putting all the pieces together. That way, if the player has built, for instance, an image of the city of Paris, he or she can also access information about the different landmarks that appear in the puzzle.
Playing longer with AR toys
Another important factor to consider is that some data shows that the number of children who prefer to play video games instead of playing with toys is continuously increasing, and that the age in which they start to play video games is becoming lower. However, children who show less interest in traditional toys report to be amazed and very engaged with toys that incorporate AR technology.
Having that in mind, some toy companies have been embracing this technology, reinventing toys and games by adding elements of AR. This has been happening in a big variety of toy categories.
For instance, related to construction sets, Chicco introduced in 2016 the App Toys Blocks, a toy targeted towards 1- to 6-year-olds. With it, even the youngest of children can enjoy building things such as dinosaurs and get to see them come to life afterwards through their phones or tablets. Lego that has also been experimenting with AR for some years now. For children over the age of 7, the Danish company presented at the Spielwarenmesse 2019 Lego Hidden Side. The game gives children the option to catch ghosts using their smartphones while pointing at the sceneries they built, while the ghosts hide within the kids’ own constructions.
In the role-play and costumes category, Hasbro introduced the Hero Vision Iron Man AR Experience to the market a couple of years ago. The game immerses children in an interactive experience that makes them feel like real superheroes.
The Kinder egg, the traditional chocolate egg with a little toy inside, now offers added value as parents can scan codes that open different AR games which can be played with a specific app named APPLAYDU.
It is interesting to point out that new companies are also flourishing, as different entrepreneurs have started to use these technologies in toys as well. SwapBots is a good example. These interesting and creative characters have interchangeable parts which can be used to create a myriad of unique figures that can be scanned to become part of an AR game.
Blurring the boundaries between toys & video games
All these games have the characteristics of traditional toys but have play options that are actually quite similar to video games. The fact is, while the toy industry is moving towards embracing these technologies, the video game industry is also incorporating physical toys into their games. That is the case of Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for the Nintendo Switch. In this game, children have to build a customized circuit in a room of their house and then control a physical Mario in a car with their Nintendo Switch while it goes around the course and collects digital rewards.
Pokémon Go is continuously being further developed and improved as well, and this will also affect and influence our consumers. The company just launched a version that can immerse players into an even more realistic experience. With the help of AR mapping, tag players scan locations so their critters can interact with real world objects, such as by hiding behind them instead of floating in front of them.
AR features in toys enrich the play value and expand the age target group
With a reality in which our industry has to compete with the popularity of video games, apps and other technologies, incorporating AR into toys can make a difference. With AR, we can add fun and educational content to our toys, thereby adding real value to the product. The AR features can make toys more appealing to children, even the ones who otherwise would not be playing with toys anymore.