The utilization of augmented reality has expanded to many different uses, with the toy industry seeing an AR boom over the last several years. While it may be thought that this has been applicable in video games for decades, the toy industry has actually taken on incorporating virtual play tech into game-play with tangible toys. So, is augmented reality the next big step for the toy industry? What does it mean for its operations moving forward?
How AR Toys Work
Many people confuse the terms ‘virtual reality’ with ‘augmented reality.’ Augmented reality doesn’t provide a fully immersive experience like its virtual counterpart, but it does ‘alter’ the real-world setting by leveraging elements that are computer-generated. In terms of the toy industry, this is a perfect solution. While virtual enhancement typically requires a headset for full immersion, kids only require an electronic device such as a tablet or a phone, paired with the appropriate app. Then, using just the camera from their electronic device, kids can see the toys animated to life through the screen.
While there is a lot of concern about kids’ focus on screens, augmented reality tech doesn’t quite have the same effect. Instead, toy-makers are able to stimulate a child’s creativity by merging virtual and physical elements. This also adds a new level of play-ability to a physical toy. AR takes a child’s engagement with the world to the next step past what a physical toy can accomplish.
If you have not encountered too many augmented reality toys, that is because they are not yet as widespread as they one day will be, but rest assured they exist and they are available for families to use.
One of the biggest contributors to personal development and creativity in the toy sphere has been Lego, stimulating children’s minds for decades. Recently, Lego has also been delving into digital technology by combining the physical elements of Lego play with digital ones.
Consider Lego’s Hidden Side play-set. With an app available on both the Android and iOS platforms and a suitable mobile device, the Lego figurines can be brought to life by scanning the play-set to reveal hidden, supernatural elements. This ‘Hunter Side’ app even has a multiplayer mode, allowing kids to interact with their friends while playing. In such games, multiple players can serve as ‘ghosts’ while one plays as a ‘hunter.’ ‘Hunter Side’ is not even Lego’s first foray into AR tech, but it is the first to merge real-life and virtual play.
Hasbro, another giant in the toy-making industry, has also embraced augmented reality tech in their toys. For instance, they manufactured an Iron Man mask that allows for a child to experience AR, taking the level of imaginative play to another degree. To engage with this toy’s play, the Hero Vision app is required, as well as a set of compatible AR goggles.
AR Technology Is Here To Stay
The expansion into augmented reality tech in terms of toys is not just a passing fad. As hardware gets developed and technology grows, toy-makers will find exciting, new methods to engage children in playtime using AR technology. The technology will surpass just toys too. Consider Apple’s AR glasses. If they are a success consumers will no longer need to hold a physical device in their hands to play, having the ability to have the same experiences with augmented reality instead.
At this point, augmented reality tech is still in its infancy stages and even industries that use it are from tapping into its full potential. It is fully expected that the toy-making industry will have new AR products on the market in the foreseeable future. With time, these applications will become more multi-modal, meaning that many of the forthcoming functionalities and features will expand even beyond the scope of contemporary AR tech.