Lego's Vidiyo app uses specialized Lego pieces to help kids craft their own shareable AR videos, with music licensed from Universal Music Group.PHOTOGRAPH: LEGO/UMG
The company's latest app incorporates coding elements, augmented reality, and a selection of kid-friendly pop tunes.
LIKE MANY CHILDREN under the age of 10, my two kids are obsessed with Legos. This is made possible by the all-encompassing bricksian ouroboros that has consumed our lives. Starting in 1999, Lego initiated dozens of deals and collaborations that turned pop culture icons like Batman and Darth Vader into tiny stackable figures and bricks. Rather than just watching a movie, my family now watches the Lego parody of that movie and orders the tie-in Lego set immediately afterward. I think my kids would bathe in the things, if only they weren’t so hard and prickly.
Today, Lego and Universal Music Group are launching an interactive music platform called Lego Vidiyo—say that word out loud—that will surely take over my Apple Music playlists in the same way the rest of the Legoverse has taken over my television and my living room floor. The app lets small children incorporate their real-world Lego constructions into augmented-reality dance videos set to the newest, hottest tunes.
The llama is here to party. PHOTOGRAPH: LEGO/UMG
To craft a musical Lego mashup, you first select one of a dozen available Vidiyo minifigs, which have designs matched to different music genres—for example, a Party Llama for Latin music, and a raver alien for extraterrestrial dance music. Each minifig comes with its own personalized soundstage, which is a palm-sized Lego box with a handle, and a collection of 2 x 2 Lego panels called BeatBits. The unique design on each BeatBit panel triggers a different special effect in the video that you create, like making everything appear in x-ray vision, or changing the singer's voice so it sounds like a mouse.
Once your child has assembled the minifig and stage and selected their BeatBits, they can open the app and scan the entire construction. When the app recognizes which minifig they're using, they can customize the digital character’s appearance and add other characters to form a full band.
With their band assembled, the child just aims the phone's camera at a location, like a corner of the living room or the top of the kitchen table. A full-on AR music video plays out in the real-world setting, complete with partying Lego band members, confetti, and pumping kid-friendly tracks from artists like Katy Perry and Imagine Dragons. Your child can record these videos and share them on the new Vidiyo platform Lego is launching within the app, which like other official Lego online communities, is moderated to keep things family-friendly.
Starting today, you can buy each Lego Vidiyo BeatBox with a character for $20. Additional minifig bandmates are $4 each.
Plastic Lego Band
If all this sounds a little tedious, it is. To help with my reporting for this story, Lego sent my family two minifig character sets and two band members with additional BeatBits. The minifigs are—not to put too fine a point on it—adorable. In addition to the Party Llama and ETDM the alien, we also got a K-pop unicorn.
Kids can customize their creations by selecting BeatBits—colorful 2 x 2 Lego panels—that add special effects to the AR videos created within the app. PHOTOGRAPH: LEGO/UMG
The palm-sized sound stages are much easier to assemble than many of our recent Lego projects; the Rexcelsior from The Lego Movie 2 was a particular thorn in my side. Once we opened the demo app, however, my 6-year-old started to lose steam. For example, we named our band through a name generator, rather than picking a name for ourselves. Maybe an adult would have a hard time generating creative name ideas, but a 6-year-old who named her bunny Cupcake Ringo can definitely come up with a better band name than the Bad Chickens.
The customizable elements in the Vidiyo experience are designed so your child can learn some basic programming concepts as they experiment. You plug the BeatBits onto the soundstage, and the order in which you place them is the order in which you’ll see different special effects. However, I am generally skeptical of any product that attempts to sneak coding “concepts” into children’s toys, and I’m not sure if my 6-year-old really made the connection between the order of the BeatBits and the order of the effects. (In fact, I wasn’t sure I saw the connection clearly either.)
Also, the whole appeal of Lego’s products is that they take play off the screen and put it into your child's hands. Lego Vidiyo puts that play right back onto the screen again. Once the soundstage is built and the BeatBits arranged, the entire experience takes place on a screen—picking the backdrop, the size of the characters, watching, and then sharing.
My Lego-loving daughter is not much younger than Vidiyo's suggested age of 7. While I can leave her alone with a crate full of Lego bricks for an afternoon, she required a lot of parental supervision with navigating the Vidiyo beta app. I sacrificed my own iPhone 11 for a few afternoons so we could record and watch Party Llama and K-Pawp dancing in our house and yard.
The AR videos that play out on the screen are sharable outside of the app. PHOTOGRAPH: LEGO/UMG
However, when it comes to enjoyable parent-child activities, making music videos ranks higher for me than, say, baking mini cupcakes or scraping Oobleck off my kitchen floor. As someone who is old enough to remember watching the MTV Top 20 Video Countdown at friends’ houses, it was fun to watch my children go crazy dancing (with llamas) to the Weeknd and Taylor Swift.
The sound stages also come with handles, so you can carry your characters around the house—or outdoors once you’re allowed to walk around the world at large again. On a Zoom presentation, Joshua Burke, UMG’s head of global partnerships, noted that the music megalabel will be adding songs regularly to the platform, and will soon offer a much broader range of musical choices than Top 40 songs from established artists.
Play the Hits
On that same Zoom call, Lego Creative Lab design director Morgan Walker pointed out that any videos shared to the Vidiyo platform will be moderated by Lego employees, so parents can worry less about their child inadvertently sharing sensitive information online. Parental consent is required before a child posts their first video, and everything from hate speech to identifiable personal information, including location information, will be removed.
The Lego Vidiyo app doesn’t require a subscription, and aside from the cost of the compatible Lego sets, there are no hidden extra costs. All of the musical mini-movies you shoot with the app can be saved right into the photo roll on your phone for easier sharing. Despite my few initial misgivings, it was a hit in my house. The music was catchy, the minifigs hilarious, and the videos fun for my children to film. It’s not hard to imagine Lego choreography on TikTok set to the Notorious B.I.G., or whatever song will be trending there in three years.
The beauty of Lego products is that even if every set the company releases is branded to a specific franchise, the bricks themselves are endlessly mutable. They quickly break free from the usual constraints of content and context. A week after Lego sent us the Vidiyo sets, Party Llama and ETDM quickly joined Emmett from The Lego Movie and Chewbacca from Star Wars for rides in my son’s airplane truck.
If all that happens from Lego Vidiyo is that my kids get a few interesting new minifigs and get a chance to improve their taste in music, that will be plenty.