© Andy Robertson/ LEGO AR-Studio
A new LEGO AR experience hits the app store soon. LEGO AR-Studio offers six virtual sets that tap into the popularity of games like Pokemon Go by coming to life on your table and living room floor.
Unlike previous dabbling with interactive versions of brick building, this has the potential to revolutionise how children play with LEGO. It combines interactive worlds and characters that combine in numerous ways to create a gold brick hunt like we've seen in LEGO video games (and LEGO Dimensions) but in the real world.
I really wasn't expecting it to be all that exciting, but within minutes I was hook. It's another testament to Augmented Reality's ability to outshine Virtual Reality in a family setting -- both in terms of accessibility and immersion. Best of all, the app is free to play and has no in-app purchases.
It's the brainchild of LEGO's Creative Play Lab and is designed as a creative tool that enables children to play with digital versions of some of the most popular LEGO sets. “We believe the best way to predict the future of play is to invent it", said Tom Donaldson, VP, Creative Play Lab at the LEGO Group. "LEGO AR-Studio pioneers new possibilities for imaginative play where children can enjoy both physical interaction and digital engagement at the same time.”
I've tried these experiences before in our family and the kids have often come away non-plussed. Either the technology doesn't really work or the level of interaction is minimal. However, LEGO AR-Studio changes all that with rock solid AR tech using Apple's ARKit and a level of play and interaction that is hugely engaging.
© LEGO/ LEGO AR-Studio Gold Brick
These aren't static virtual versions of real world brick building. The sets are populated by walking talking LEGO characters. As you play and combine the different elements there are scripted events that happen to grant access to more of the architecture. This will open doors and hidden passages where players can find more of the gold LEGO bricks they collect in the game.
You can also control different LEGO models in a remote controlled fashion. The app also allows users to record the action and save video clips directly to their smart device. “It allows children to play in engaging ways, while having ‘one hand in each world’ – playing and building with the physical LEGO models, while holding on to their device and bring sets to life,” said Tom Donaldson.
© Lego/ LEGO City Train 60052 in LEGO AR-Studio
Certainly, whether it's the Ninjago dragon breathing fire, trains sounding a horn or a LEGO firetruck using a fire-hose, this is a lot of fun. The full list of sets currently available in the app are as follows:
- LEGO City Police Station - 60047
- LEGO City Train Set - 60052
- LEGO City Fire Station - 60110
- LEGO Ninjago The Green NRG Dragon - 70593
- LEGO Ninjago Movie – Cole’s Mech - 70632
- LEGO Ninjago Movie – Destiny’s Bounty - 70618
What's nice about the app is that it lets children use it to create short videos. I spent the morning with my tribe playing around and they came up with this PJ Masks LEGO adventure animation. It's features like this that tap into the YouTube mindset of youngsters and will stand LEGO in good stead going forward.
One down side is that the LEGO AR-Studio app is only available on iOS 11 devices with the A9 and A10 processors and above. This means you need one of the following devices to run it:
- iPhone 6s and 6s Plus
- iPhone 7 and 7 Plus
- iPhone SE
- iPhone 8 and 8 Plus
- iPhone X
- iPad Pro
- iPad (2017)
© Andy Robertson/ LEGO AR-Studio
It will be interesting to see the reception to the new experience. There is huge potential to expand it, as well as add more content. The question to LEGO is whether playing with the app will increase or diminish desire to buy its physical product. Either way, if you are thinking of buying one of these sets, seeing it in Augmented Reality is a great way to test it out.
The app is currently free, but there is potential for LEGO to add in-app purchases as they add more sets to the list. Time will tell.