LEGO: Traditional Toys with Modern Tech Twists

Lego the Simpsons

We recently introduced you to Disney: Colour and Play, a great a traditional children’s past-time is adopting technology, but how are LEGO, one of the world’s favourite toys for kids and adults alike, using technology to stay relevant?

Perhaps the only thing to hurt your foot more than getting stood on by an elephant,  LEGO has been the toy that has moulded many a childhood and I count myself among them. From spending hours a day sitting on the floor constructing my latest “flying machine” or attempting create something that I could bate my brother over the head with, LEGO was possibly my favourite childhood toy.

LEGO block gifThese tiny little insignificant blocks have been used as a gateway to open a child’s ability to create, build, interact and play for nearly 80 years and I am absolutely delighted that LEGO has made a massive comeback in recent years due simply due to their willingness to move with the times. As technology has progressed so has the LEGO experience, as big cinematic releases from Star Wars to The Lord of the Rings are now accompanied with LEGO games on the biggest consoles and mobile platforms.

Seeing the potent threat LEGO posed to the feet of the general public, the Danish company began investigating creation without actual bricks through the LEGO Digital Designer app for PC and Mac. Essentially this is a virtual LEGO box, a free virtual LEGO set you don’d have to tidy up after you empty the box out. This application allows you to build hundreds of different LEGO models on the computer screen and share them with others. The Danes also teamed up with Google to create an online virtual LEGO building platform through Chrome, and once again its free!

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LEGO and Tech

Lego Life of GeorgeThere are now a number of LEGO themed apps that merge the traditional creation and building experience of the bricks with an interactive mobile experience. One former experiment was LEGO: Life of George, a game where players are timed to create a model from the bricks while simultaneously experiencing a digital element through your smartphone. After one of the 250 LEGO models was finished, a quick scan from the phone app would check it for accuracy, before assigning a score to the player and keeping track of progress. Unfortunately, LEGO closed Life of George for new players in December last year.

lego movie makerLEGO really have been at the cutting edge of merging technology with the physical, just check out the free LEGO Movie Maker app. Using this app and the camera on your phone it is easy for anyone to create a stop-motion animation, with the Mini-Figures and play sets. There are also loads of YouTube videos to help your along your way too. If you have seen The LEGO Movie then you already have an idea what the end product will look like. The app creates an animated sequence from your set in a similar look to that of the movie, The app includes all the tools required to create a cool animated sequence from virtual effects, music and sound effects. Once you have your raw sequence the app will then offer an editing suite and add the ability to upload to YouTube, perfect for a young budding Spielberg.

In fact the interface is simple enough that an 8-10 year old will be able to figure it out, making the only limitation the user’s imagination. Even an adult LEGO enthusiast or movie-making buff will appreciate what’s possible using nothing but the LEGO Movie Maker app with traditional LEGO toys.

Build your own Robot
Lego MindstormSo it’s obvious LEGO are no strangers to tech, but they really excel when it comes to Mindstorms. Mindstorms are a simply amazing robotics kit which basically allows a user to make and program a fully functioning robot designed around the famous little bricks.

There are roughly 17 different customizable robots which are capable of being programmed through an app that links to the robot via Bluetooth. The 3D building app offers interactive, step by step instructions for creating the various robots.  It is here where the app will also offer you the tools to program the robots to handle a wide range of tasks such as walking.

The Bottom Line

Although LEGO is older than my dad and me put together, its global appeal has never been bigger. There is no other toy in history which has managed to position itself in such a way as to create a product that transcends age and gender barriers to create cutting edge entertainment.

Whether you prefer to dig out the old box from the loft and start clipping pieces together or playing an interactive and action packed video game the underlying mentality and ethos of the brand remains a constant. The focus on unleashing creativity and capturing the imaginations of children and grown ups alike has and will always be a key focus for LEGO.

Now excuse me while I break out my old box and attempt to make my very own bat mobile and play “Everything is Awesome” on loop.

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Junior Editor and host of the Goosed Podcast, Jon is passionate about phones, design and everything tech. Having joined the team in 2015 he now leads the entire Goosed podcast channel. Ask him about 3D printing or Disney movies. Read more by Jon.