Blog Review (Geek Gestalt) : Augmented reality augurs the future of toys

Please have a look at this article : Augmented reality augurs the future of toys

I have seen the future of toys, and it is augmented reality.

That was my conclusion Monday after seeing Mattel’s i-Tags, new technology that will be included with action figures the company will make for “Titanic” director James Cameron’s new film, “Avatar.”

For those not familiar with augmented reality, it’s an overlay of digital information or imagery on top of real-world objects. AR, as it’s known, “is a field of computer research that deals with the combination of real-world and computer-generated data (virtual reality), where computer graphics objects are blended into real footage in real time,” according to Wikipedia.

Or, as Sean McGowan, a toy industry analyst with Needham & Company in New York called it, AR is “jet fuel for the imagination.”

In the case of the “Avatar” action figures, AR is being implemented in the form of small plastic cards–the i-Tags–that kids can hold up in front of any Webcam. When they do, a fully 3D digital image is superimposed over the card on the screen. This can be anything from a simple set of information about a character from the film to a full-on, five-on-five shooting battle involving large military helicopters and flying dinosaur-like creatures called Leonopteryx.

The i-Tags, along with the “Avatar” action figures they’re based on, will be released in October in advance of the December 18 release of Cameron’s film.

There are five levels of i-TAGs, each of which corresponds to a specific level of interactivity with the AR. At level one–which will cost $8.95 per toy–kids who hold the card up to their Webcam will see some information on their computer screen about the character. At higher levels, though, they’ll be able to “push” buttons on the card, allowing them to manipulate the digital character or vehicle that pops up (see video below).

While AR is beginning to show up in many arenas, from video games to movie advertising to baseball cards to exploratory toys, Mattel said that the i-Tag is the first-ever retail toy implementation of the technology. more

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