Lego has shipped several apps and products that add an augmented reality dimension to their playsets. But it has taken a reality TV show from Fox to allow brick fans to build with virtual bricks in augmented reality.
Just in time for National Lego Day on Tuesday, the Disney subsidiary, with assistance from creative agency Trigger and 8th Wall, published a web-based augmented reality experience to draw attention to its series Lego Masters. The show, with Lego Batman himself, Will Arnett, serving as host, premieres on Feb. 5.
Available at the Lego Masters Builder, the experience gives users the unbridled joy of stacking virtual bricks in their personal space. Users can select change the color and personifying features, such as eyes and mouths, of the bricks as they build their creations then move their smartphone around to position the bricks onto the play space.
Once the build is complete, users can click the green checkmark button to remove the base plate and the photo button to capture and share their miniature masterpieces. There's also an undo button to take away the last brick placed and a trash button to scrap it all and start over. While the experience includes buttons for repositioning the virtual sculptures, it also supports multi-touch gestures for resizing and rotating.
For the sake of achievement, replay value, and further promotion of the show, the experience also includes a weekly challenge, with this week's contest being the best duck design. (My attempt serves as the cover photo for this story.) Participants who share their creations on social media with the #MasterBuilder hashtag can win prizes or have their work featured on the official Lego Masters social accounts.
If that weren't enough, Fox has also published a Spark AR camera effect for Facebook called Mosaic Maker that renders the user's camera view into Lego-shaped pixels. Pablo Picasso would be proud.
Lego's own augmented reality experiences, namely the Hidden Side product line, the AR Studio app, and Playgrounds app, add AR content to the purchased playsets instead of enabling a virtual brick-stacking mode, so Fox's promotional experience does break new ground.
However, the novelty of the Lego Masters Builder is offset by the user interface, as the act of moving the phone to position bricks was a tad awkward in my experience.
Despite the agency's status as preferred developers for Snapchat Lens Studio and Facebook's Spark AR platforms and an early adopter of Magic Leap, Trigger has become a frequent collaborator with 8th Wall when it comes to web-based AR advertising.
Based on its work with Trigger, along with high-profile campaigns with Sony Records and Toyota, 8th Wall has begun to mount a serious challenge to the dominance of Snapchat and Facebook in the AR advertising game .