Augmented reality toys are a wide range of products aimed at children that use AR to create a unique play experience. These toys combine physical objects with computer-generated visuals. Through the use of a camera or smartphone, users can interact with virtual objects that seem to be present in the real world.
Grand View Research reports that the global smart toys market was valued at around 10 billion USD in 2020. The compound annual growth rate from 2021 to 2028 is expected to reach 16.5%. So there is clearly a demand for such products, which will visibly increase over time. Global brands like Lego are already leading the way and bringing new smart toys, including AR-powered ones, to the market.
What’s so great about AR toys?
Augmented reality toys are highly interactive and overall fun to play with, so they easily catch and maintain the attention of youngsters. This makes them perfect learning tools. Their engaging nature means they’re very good at sparking curiosity and making kids actually want to discover the world around them.
Many AR toys facilitate children’s cognitive development. For example, they can teach small children about shapes, colors, and other concepts by providing visual feedback and interactive activities. Additionally, AR toys can help to develop problem-solving skills and hand-eye coordination by providing engaging puzzles and activities.
But augmented reality toys isn’t a product group aimed solely at children. 58% of adult respondents said they bought toys and games for themselves, according to a 2021 survey by Toy Association (source: InsideHook). And there’s growing interest in such products. So tech-savvy gadgets and toys that offer immersive gaming experiences undoubtedly have the potential to sell to adults.
Examples of augmented reality toys
Lego AR Studio
Lego has embraced AR to bring its classic building blocks to life since 2018, making them a pioneer in the field of augmented reality toys. The Lego AR Studio features a range of interactive activities. Players can explore a virtual world filled with their own creations and build on them with the help of the app. There are also challenges to complete, such as finding hidden pieces or solving puzzles.
Since then, Lego has released a range of physical sets that use AR. These sets come with a special base and app that lets the user scan the physical set and bring it to life. The software can then be used to trigger animations and play games with the set. The AR features add a whole new level of fun and creativity to the classic building block experience.
What’s more, the company developed two more augmented reality applications called Technic AR and Hidden Side AR. The former allows you to race some of the Lego car models on a virtual racetrack, and you can see the latter in action in the video below.
Mario Kart Live
Mario Kart Live is a new augmented reality game from Nintendo. Players control a real-life kart equipped with a camera and a Nintendo Switch. A live image from the camera is displayed on the console, and AR makes the virtual racetrack and other objects come to life.
With this toy, you can set up a custom race circuit for your family in the living room or host a kart event in your bedroom! The game features multiple courses, power-ups, and online multiplayer. Players can also customize their karts with special parts and accessories. Watch the promotional video below and see for yourself just how much fun augmented reality toys can bring!
The Augie Index is a prime example of a toy that boosts creativity and imagination while improving problem-solving skills. The app Augie comes with combines exciting gameplay with basic but engaging coding tasks. It’s a great way to introduce children to logical thinking and programming/engineering from an early age.
The robotic toy responds to voice commands and can be programmed to perform specific tasks. The accompanying app provides a virtual environment where children can explore, play, and learn. It uses AR to overlay 3D objects onto the physical surroundings of this augmented reality toy. Additionally, the app allows parents to track their child’s progress and customize the learning experience.
We could call the Merge Cube an AR hologram you can actually hold, merging the virtual and physical worlds even further. The toy is designed to be a fun and interactive way to learn about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). The software includes over 100 science simulations, and the Cube works with the Merge Headset – a smartphone-based VR/AR (or mixed reality) device.
Let’s Explore: Oceans Mega Pack
Like Merge, Let’s Explore offers both smartphone-powered VR goggles and AR holographic cubes. And with their Oceans Book, the three make up their Oceans Mega Pack. The set allows the whole family to explore the underwater world in an engaging way. The Let’s Explore app comes with VR videos and interactive experiences for the cube, like viewing the anatomy of a whale.
Other AR ideas for toys
Augmented reality has the potential to enhance collectibles such as cards and stickers. With an AR-enabled device, users could access bonus content such as videos, images, and sound clips. For example, if a card or sticker has a character, augmented reality could make it come to life with 3D animations.
Alternatively, a 3D version of the card that can be manipulated, animated, and interacted with could be displayed. All this can make collecting cards and stickers more exciting and engaging. It can also help to promote a brand or franchise through interactive experiences that are accessible to all users.
Interactive manuals & smart packaging
Augmented reality can enhance packaging and manuals by providing interactive 3D models of products and detailed instructions. For example, a virtual representation of a product can be displayed after pointing a camera at a QR code on the box. This would allow the user to better understand the product before purchase.
The manual can also be enhanced by providing an interactive 3D model of the product and instructions to help guide users through the installation process. Additionally, augmented reality can be used to provide product tutorials, customer support, and troubleshooting by overlaying 3D models with step-by-step instructions and tips.
Card & board games
Augmented reality can improve board and card games by adding new dimensions of interaction and visual effects. It can enhance the fun with virtual objects, 3D visualizations, or interactive animations.
Imagine a game of Dungeons & Dragons with AR, viewing detailed descriptions of characters and items found throughout each dungeon level. Or engaging in combat with lifelike monsters that respond realistically when attacked. Battles could become much more exciting with 3D visuals rather than just reading words off a page.
Furthermore, since all these elements are overlaid onto our own reality, we get a sense of being truly ‘there’ while still enjoying everything that makes traditional tabletop gaming so great: social interaction, strategy building and storytelling.
Similarly, augmented reality could also be used to add interactive animations to card games, such as providing animations of characters, monsters, or other elements. Augmented reality could even be used to create a virtual version of a card or board game in which players can play against each other without having to be in the same physical location.
Need help in developing AR toys and games?
In conclusion, augmented reality toys are a great way to make learning fun. They provide an engaging and interactive experience that can help children develop their cognitive and motor skills. Furthermore, they are not just for children – adults are also taking an interest in virtual and augmented reality toys.
Finally, the potential applications of AR in toys and games are seemingly endless. The technology can be used to create interactive 3D models, virtual game elements, interactive manuals, and smart packaging. Whether you’re a toy manufacturer, game developer, or just looking for a fun way to learn, augmented reality toys and games are a great way to explore the possibilities of this technology.
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Marketing specialist with four years of experience. Having spent part of his childhood in Ireland, he's fascinated with its culture and language. Loves history, football and any form of writing.