Total Immersion Points Way toward New Modes of Digital Game Play via Augmented Reality

With AR Technology in i-TAG Toys, Topps Trading Cards and More, Is Toy Industry Nearing a Tipping Point?

LOS ANGELES (February 11, 2010) – With the holiday season now behind us and Toy Fair opening this week, are we witnessing a revolution in how kids play?

Last fall, in advance of the release of Twentieth Century Fox’s epic action-adventure film, “Avatar,” Mattel launched a new line of action figures based on characters, creatures and vehicles in the film — the first retail toys ever to incorporate augmented reality (AR) technology.

Each toy in the product line includes a 3D web tag, called an i-TAG — developed by Total Immersion (www.t-immersion.com), the global leader in AR — which consumers can display before a webcam.  Scanning the i-TAG reveals special content onscreen unique to the corresponding product.  When the i-TAG for deluxe figures, vehicles or creatures are placed under a webcam, animated 3-D models “come alive” through engaging, evading or defending moves.  Said a CNET correspondent, “I’ve seen the future of toys and it’s augmented reality.”

The i-TAG product line came on the heels of Topps’ 3D Live trading cards for both Major League Baseball and the NFL, which introduced a broad audience to AR and a groundbreaking enhancement to the trading card, a beloved American classic.  Just as AR is beginning to redefine game play, it is also bringing a new dimension to the children’s encyclopedia genre.  Nathan and Total Immersion recently received an LSA Innovation Oscar for the Dokeo Augmented Reality Encyclopedia, dubbed the “best innovative cultural product for 2009” in France.

A year ago, industry pundit Jonathan Samet of Toy Insider identified five trends that he suggested would shape the business:

  • Lower priced toys (toys under $25)
  • Toys based on movie/entertainment properties
  • Science toys
  • Green toys
  • Access to the Internet and digital websites

Similarly, the Toy Association itself echoed those trends, in a report that called out budget toys, green toys, movie toys and interactive and digital toys.  Noted the association: “Computers and web searching abilities have greatly influenced children’s play patterns in recent years.  Links to website and added content will be offered through websites dedicated for this purpose only.”

“By the toy industry’s own assessments, digital forms of game play are ready for prime time, and the Topps cards and Mattel i-TAG toys touch on virtually all of the current industry trends,” said Bruno Uzzan, CEO and co-founder, Total Immersion.  “Augmented reality has gained momentum because of its unique ability to engage consumers in their experience with a brand.  Mattel’s ‘Avatar’ toy line and Topps’ new take on trading cards are truly groundbreaking, by taking key assets of important franchises and placing them in the consumer’s hands, to extend these brands in new environments, in new ways.

“At the same time, these toy lines suggest that digital play patterns are taking their place alongside durable toys,” Uzzan said.  “Digital toys represent an exciting addition to the mix, bringing characters to life and enhancing both the physical toy and the property from which that toy is derived.”

About Total Immersion

Total Immersion (www.t-immersion.com) is the global leader in augmented reality. Through its patented D’Fusion® technology, Total Immersion blurs the line between the virtual world and the real world by integrating real time interactive 3D graphics into a live video stream. Leading the augmented reality category since 1999, the company maintains offices in Europe (France and the UK), Asia and in the U.S., and supports a network of more than 65 partners worldwide.  Find the latest news concerning Total Immersion projects at: http://augmented-reality-news.com.

Blog Review : Washington Post’s Review of Mattel Avatar Toys with Augmented Reality

James Cameron’s new movie, “Avatar,” attacks theaters this week, and for select members of the family that means play opportunities, both real and virtual, based on the sci-fi epic.

[…]

Now, there’s an exhaustive line of 3 3/4-inch action figures and in-scale creatures and vehicles based on the Avatar universe that deliver a magical, high-tech upgrade for those with a computer, webcam and broadband Internet connection.

Junior first must make purchasing decisions based on a wide assortment of characters from the PG-13-rated movie. The figures have limited articulation and the occasional accessory, such as Pandorian Tsu’Tey with his double bow or human Col. Mile Quaritch, who packs a pistol.

Parents may find themselves involved in the assembly process for the vehicles and creatures, including building the AMP Suit, six-legged Thanator and butterfly-winged Leonopteryx. (That exercise might lead to some unavoidable loose joints and frustrated offspring. At least there are no stickers to apply.)

Following some real playtime, children will want to visit the Avatar i-Tag Web site (www.avataritag.com). After downloading and installing the Total Immersion D’Fusion Web plug-in, they now can match a plaque (which is included with all toys and doubles as a display base for the figures) with one of 40 on-screen entries.

Once a Web page showing live visuals from the user’s webcam is online, a user takes the corresponding plaque and holds it in front of the camera. A three-dimensional, animated representation of the figure will appear above the plaque on the screen.

As the owner shifts the base or moves it farther from the camera, the size and perspective of the virtual entity also changes.

Adding to the experience, when a child covers one of the icons printed on the plaque, more information is revealed, or the elaborate onscreen creation is set in motion. For example, the Thanator rears back and then jumps forward with a ferocious growl and owners learn in a pop-up fact card that the creature has a massive, distensible armored jaw.

The character figures offer 3-D imagery such as maps of Pandora or a C-21 Dragon Assualt Ship or an irritable Viperwolf.

The great news is the concept is amazing, works every time and requires no lengthy registration or computer-befuddling installations. The not so good news is it’s a one-trick pony. There is no way to get multiple plaques to interact, no way to download vital information to use in some type of online multiplayer fighting game (take a look at Mattel’s Xtractaurs) and they must exit the program and choose another toy icon for the second toy to appear.

Maybe some of these possibilities will be incorporated into the next licensed property, but for the time being, it still is an impressive visual that extends the fun for a youngster playing with a traditional action figure.

Blog Review : Cisco Virtual Environments : Avatar Pushes Augmented Reality

Please have a look at this article : Cisco Virtual Environments

The new James Cameron movie, Avatar, is a next generation film that truly blurs the line between animation and reality.   Add to that mix the elements of new 3D technology, and you see why Cameron waited for the technology to catch up to his vision of the planet world Pandora.   

The movie is not only pushing the boundaries of progressive movie making, but the marketing effort associated with the movie is tremendous.   The movie has a full array of cross brand promotions with major food outlets, as well as a line of augmented reality action figures.   

These action figures are not the ones you might remember, in fact, they are nothing like you have seen before.  These actions figures look deceiving at first, as they seem similar to a small remote control.   However, once the devices are placed in front of a webcam, the action begins.   In addition to the control of the figure that we have seen in other AR demos, this goes further by adding controls directly on the physical device.   Press a button, and the figure takes flight; press another, and the guns begin to fire. 

More

Total Immersion augmented reality technology is one of most talked-about trends and technologies to have influenced global marketing over the past 12 months

Total Immersion is part of Most Contagious 2009 report in Augmented Reality section. This report talks about all talked-about trends and technologies to have influenced global marketing over the past 12 months.

You can have a look to this report here.

At the other end of the fun spectrum is Topps’ 3D Live Baseball Cards via AR experts Total Immersion. When scanned via a webcam, these produce miniature animated players in the palm of your hand or on your desk, which can then be controlled to play a series of simple batting and pitching mini-games. (See Contagious 19).


Toy manufacturer Mattel also endowed its new range of Avatar action figures with AR i-Tags. These plastic cards, when held in front of a webcam, produce 3D-renderings of that very toy which then spring to life, stomping and leaping across the user’s desktop. See Contagious 21.

Los Angeles Times Looks at the Mattel iTag Line

“Mattel’s Jason Horowitz talks to the L.A. Times about how the Avatar AR-enabled line of iTag action figures weds augmented reality and the fantastic reality of James Cameron’s blockbuster.  In this interview, Horowitz discusses how augmented reality expands upon the remarkable experience of the film.” More

Toys : Video Release of First Mattel Augmented Reality Toys with Avatar Licence and i-Tag technology

The Mattel toy line, developed in partnership with Twentieth Century Fox Licensing & Merchandising (Fox Licensing) will feature heroes, creatures and vehicles straight from James Camerons much-anticipated film, which is set for release in December 2009.

The augmented reality technology used for the project was developped by AR world leader Total Immersion. Each action figure, vehicle and creature in the product line will come with a 3-D web tag, called an i-TAG, which consumers can scan using a home computers webcam.

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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