I love toys. Fews things make me as happy as wandering through aisles of toy stores on the hunt for the future. I work on visualization systems at work and toys are a way for me to see what kids are acclimating to. I’ve recently been on the lookout for toys that integrate with phones. I have a suspicion that phones will become the platform to holodeck type experiences in the near future. I want to share two devices I’ve recently discovered, the Apptoyz appBlaster and the Hasbro my3D.
The appBlaster is a plastic rifle-like device that has dual triggers and holds an iPhone. What’s cool about these triggers is that they are connected to pads which touch the screen as you play appBlaster games on your iPhone. I spent two hours today destroying enemies in appBlaster Overkill, an impressive shooting gallery game with stylings similar to Guerilla’s Killzone franchise. I also tried out Tin Can Alley, a game wonderfully reminiscent of Disney’s Toy Story Midway Mania! ride.
Playing an appBlaster game feels similar to interacting with a Silent Scope arcade game. The phone serves as a viewfinder, your movements while holding the gun change what you see on the screen. The immersive feeling was especially successful in Tin Can Alley where slight changes in angle help to bank shots on later levels. I also tried out Marine Sharpshooter by XMG and it seemed simple and stale in comparison to the upgrade rich and replayable Overkill. There are huge opportunities for augmented reality games with this device, the camera is exposed on the front of the iPhone tray, some current Apptoyz games allow you to play games superimposed over real-time video.
Consider the ramifications of this device. Apptoyz is leveraging the processing power and gyroscope built into the iPhone to make a simple piece of plastic feel like an actual weapon. The key differentiator with this toy is the innovative combination of capacitive touch pads and iOS software to make you feel like you’re inside the environment.
Here’s the official appBlaster promo video:
I scored the appBlaster on sale at Target for $17, here’s a link to the appBlaster on Amazon.
Back in November I remember wondering what happened to the ViewMaster. On my search for sales of classic reels I stumbled onto the Hasbro My3D.
The my3D comes with a few adaptors to allow recent iPhone and iPod Touch hardware to fit inside it. Similar to the appBlaster, the My3D is mainly a hollow plastic gadget built to work with an iOS device. What makes this badboy different from the appBlaster is that it can display 3D images and video.
The my3D looks like a futuristic ViewMaster, once you’ve downloaded the free-with-hardware my3D PRESENTS…HD app you realize the possibilities this stereoscopic device presents. Not only does it display still images the way ViewMaster did but also 3D video and gyroscope-savvy apps like my3D Teleport L.A. portend to a whole new level of interactivity with stereoscopic imagery. Teleport LA has a fun 360 degree immersive tour of spots throughout Los Angeles, California. You hold the device up to your eyes and look around, up, down, left, and right, and interact with the video or images you’re looking at. Openings at the bottom of the my3D device allow you to press the phone screen with your thumbs. For an idea of what I mean with 360 degree interaction, imagine looking at this video through a ViewMaster and the device also tracks the angle it’s being viewed at. The my3D device establishes a template from which one can imagine all kinds of applications to spring forth. Hasbro is planning the release of a my3D SDK for the development of a wide variety of 3D apps from augmented reality to immersive educational software.
The toys of tomorrow will use hardware intimately integrated into our lives. Just in this post I’ve outlined two smart toys that piggyback on the processing power of our phones. Both the appBlaster and My3D are nothing without their software. I expect this software to become increasingly sophisticated and customizable. By knowing our tastes, having the power to analyze them, and allowing the games we play to interact with the real world, we may even see these toys affect the way we work and interact with one another.