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Augmented reality and the Invizimals

More and more toys incorporate technological elements

  • Key4Communications

Technological toys are increasingly popular. According to the NPD group, the category grew almost 35% in Spain at the end of 2013, thanks to tablets and Furby, which was the best-selling toy not only in Spain but also in the UK, Germany and Italy. The exception in Europe was France, where the best-selling product was a tablet, Vtech’s Storio. This category of toys also increased sales in the UK, with seven of the top ten toys, and in the U.S., where its sales increased by 18%.

By 2014 the trend could continue - there are doubts about children’s tablets, but rather in terms of the high number of products on the market (more than 40 models in Spain), and Furby is expected to continue to grow with its second version, as happened last year in Britain.

But the big news may be augmented reality. The London Toy Fair highlighted this technology as one of the trends to consider for this year, thanks to the playing possibilities of combining technology and traditional toys.

They are already reaching some examples – the Disney Princess Ultimate Dream Castle of Mattel can be combined with an app to access stories and activities related to the different areas of the toy.

And one of the properties that will likely have a significant impact are Sony’s Invizimals, which incorporate augmented reality from its birth as a videogame by Novorama as early as 2009. The brand now has a television series co-produced by BRB Internacional and a licensing programme that incorporates Panini in the field of collectibles and IMC Toys as master toy partner.

As for the series, Javier Biern, Licensing Director at BRB Internacional, explains that the special shows were released late last year with "spectacular results in Spain, France, Italy, and Australia, among other countries." The company, which also acts as agent for the property, is confirming its broadcast on "all territories worldwide, including the U.S. and Asia for a major global release by the end of 2014."

The series will feature additional content of augmented reality, thanks to the codes to be issued on the screen that can be read with a phone or tablet camera, so the characters will seem to leave the TV screen to enter living room. Similarly, action figures, which go on sale April 1, will come with a card and a code, and in this case, not only the characters will come to life in the screen of the mobile device, but also if we join two of them, they will interact (and even fight).

These toys will go on sale in Spain and in other territories "like France, Italy, Greece, Oceania, and South America. But the plan continues in 2015 with the launch in other countries, hoping that Invizimals becomes a comprehensive and lasting brand", as explains Lito Baldovinos, Brand Marketing Manager at IMC Toys. The company has extensive experience in the world of licensing, but this is the first time serving as master toy for a property. Also, IMC Toys, Novorama, and BRB Internacional are all Spanish firms.

In short, this is a way to play and interact with content that is increasingly present – we all are watching TV while using our smartphones and tablets, and there is a good number of toys that allow physical and virtual worlds to interact, such as Skylanders, or Hasbro’s Telepods for Angry Birds, but Baldovinos, from IMC Toys, explains that "there is no other line of toys that interacts in this way with augmented reality, or a device that can recognize a toy and make it alive on its own."

"We believe that in two or three years our young audience will not pay too much attention to a screen that does not answer immediately or reacts to a look, a message or a keystroke. There is no way back," says Biern, from BRB, adding that "audiovisual audience is becoming less passive and interacts more directly with contents, and will even decide which contents and how we should produce."

But of course, you cannot  just add technological elements to any toy and brand, as Baldovinos, from IMC Toys, stresses: "The important thing is that this technology keeps a relationship with the brand, such as in the case of Invizimals, where the game, the series, the toys, and all side products are related to augmented reality. Technology in this case is an asset of the brand, as well as a differentiator."

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