Augmented reality – viewing the real world on the mobile screen, with little digital extras added in – is nothing new to the world of toys. But, with Qualcomm’s Vuforia platform, it’s becoming far more engaging than ever before.
Vuforia is a software platform for apps that specializes in image recognition. A lot of times, apps that use augmented reality rely on either GPS cues or QR codes to trigger content to appear on screen. Vuforia can recognize much more complex shapes and images, and can run new content accordingly.
That will change the way kids shop for and play with toys. LEGO is implementing Vuforia in LEGO Connect, an app that can be used to shop for LEGO sets and access all kinds of extra features. Kids can scan images of LEGO sets, which will be matched up with the set stored in LEGO’s online catalog. That will bring up what the completed model looks like in 3D, along with any other online bonus content LEGO has related to that set. Kids can get a better idea of what the finished product will look like before they make it, so they can make informed decisions about what they want to bug their parents to buy for them.
Hot Wheels is actually using Vuforia for play. This started last year, with the Hot Wheels Power Port app. Tracks built with the Power Port app in mind have images on the tracks that trigger extra mini-games on the app. So, kids can use their iPads to watch as their toy cars zoom through the physical, real-world track, while playing mini-games and battling whatever road hazards (like sharks, of course) happen to appear in the on-screen world.
These are just two early examples, and there are surely going to be more toys incorporating the technology in the near future. As the software gets better and can recognize more complex images, toy makers will be able to get even more creative in how they tie digital play into physical play.