Toys & Games

Why digital natives choose augmented reality and your toy brand should too

A full year of the COVID crisis has proved that the toy industry is one of the most resilient. While sales skyrocket and the customer base extends to include adults seeking refuge in play, toy brands have to stay ahead of the game. Augmented reality helps to future-proof toys for the digital natives’ generation.

Nowadays, the driving force behind toy sales bonanza is preschool to teenage kids. This digital natives cohort was born into the era of technology and social networks.

The new generation’s digital affinity and other traits impact their shopping choices. To meet the next generation of consumers, toy brands should watch those traits.

Inside the digital natives’ minds

Digital natives switch between the digital and physical worlds. The new kids are more tech-savvy and aware of the latest trends than their parents. According to Ofcom, half of the 10 year-olds now own their smartphone. By the time kids get ready for secondary school, the smartphone ownership doubles. This milestone marks kids’ digital independence. 

Modern kids feel the influence from friends, family, and external sources (e.g. social media). Sure, peer sharing still stays a go-to way to learn about new toys and trends. But digital natives kids also binge-watch YouTube influencers unpacking videos. Often it happens months before those toys land on the shop shelves.

By the time family toy shopping happens, the kids (as young as toddlers) will know precisely what they want to get.

Embracing digital

After smartphones and tablets, new kids expect toys to include digital components. Companion apps bridge hands-on play with their favorite digital universe. Thus, the play experience can go beyond the living room and be shared with friends.

What does it mean for toy brands? They need to adapt to young audiences’ shifting interests. One tactic is to add a digital layer to product functionality. Brands can use new channels to collect insights about play behavior to understand their audience better.

CEOs of the household

New kids’ savviness doesn’t stop at using technology. Surprisingly, Generation Alpha kids have an increasing influence over the household buying decisions. According to the Insights People, kids are becoming the CEOs of the household. 

Well-informed about emerging trends, digital natives influence their parents’ consumer habits. Since the COVID crisis has boosted family time, toy brands worldwide have noticed a sales spike.

This trend is likely to persist even after the pandemic, along with children having more say in the household shopping. 

AR embodies the new type of play

Many toy brands strategically invest resources to future-proof the products with digital solutions. The efforts don’t stop at improving the e-commerce experience or producing high-quality content.

Recently LEGO reported the operating profit rising by 19% to £1.5bn in 2020. The growth is mostly due to the investment in bridging physical and digital play. “Children are digital natives – they don’t care whether they play physically or digitally,” says Niels B Christiansen, Lego’s chief executive.

Like Pokémon Go, LEGO has strategically invested in an AR toy line and now reaps the benefits from the increased interest of digital natives.

How AR solutions bridge tech-minded generations and toy brands?

Generation Alpha kids grow along with smart devices and technology. As a result, these kids will likely have higher expectations of toys. Augmented reality acts as an imaginative layer for kids. Moreover, this technology unlocks fantasy and gives physical toys superpowers that go beyond the hands-on play.

Various toy categories can benefit from the augmented reality layer. It not only extends IRL (in real life) fun and catches youngsters’ interest. Augmented reality helps to win the age groups that are about to switch to the digital and forgo classic toys for the lack of interactivity. 

Augmented reality is a new way to:

  • – broadcast immersive digital content

  • – enable social sharing and multiplayer experience

  • – unlock new collecting possibilities

  • Lastly, toy marketers and product developers can use AR to get insights into the dwell time and play behavior. What’s more, augmented reality solutions for toys are easy to customize. It’s also easy to use AR without disrupting the whole production cycle.

    Toy brands are using augmented reality solutions to make their products ready for the digital natives. Interested to learn more?

    Talk to our experts & start today

    Read more about Wikitude’s augmented reality solutions for toy companies:

    Toys & Games

    Augmented play: how to pitch AR to the toy industry

    The toy industry is all about connecting the imaginative world with physical objects. Now, augmented reality opens endless opportunities to make users experience play in new ways.

    With technologies penetrating every sector of manufacturing and customers’ interest steadily leaning towards digital, the toy industry is the one at the forefront of changes. For digital agencies that cater to toy manufacturers, AR offers an indispensable opportunity to bridge tangible and virtual elements, providing the end-users with a new dimension to play.

    In this post, we’ll take a closer look at how toymakers could benefit from using augmented reality products.

    The shift in audience

    Purchasing power worldwide has been rapidly transitioning to millennials. According to Accenture research, this population segment is projected to spend $1.4 trillion on shopping each year by 2020. The same cohort belongs to the so-called digital-natives generation. When asked what technologies they expect to see in everyday life, they claim AR to be one of them. With the oldest of the millennial generation being in their early 40s, they represent the majority of toy companies’ customers.

    The toy end users are the children belonging to Generation Z or, the youngest so far, Gen Alpha. These kids grow along with technology, which penetrates all aspects of their life. No wonder they naturally gravitate towards brands that stay on top of emerging technologies.

    Now, the reasoning behind customer purchasing behaviour is clear. Let’s explore what crucial improvements AR solutions bring to the toy industry.

    Staying relevant

    As the demand in technology grows, toy industry giants embrace digital elements (AR specifically) to enhance their product lines. For example, LEGO Hidden Side playsets provide building bricks with a complimentary interactive augmented reality. The app serves to deepen the game experience, turning users into real ghostbusters. Using the mobile device, gamers scan the play scene to find hidden creatures and interact with other players.

    Image source: LEGO

    LEGO is not the only toy company exploring the augmented reality niche. A few years ago Hasbro excited their fans by introducing a movie-inspired, 1:1 scale Iron Man mask that featured AR technology. By downloading the Hero Vision app and using AR goggles and markers, players have the opportunity to take pretend play to a whole new level.

    Adding value

    A cutting edge technology such as AR not only adds a new dimension to the gamers’ experience. It is also a proven way to revive the classical formats that might lose their appeal with time. Let’s take a look at a board game genre.

    The all-time favorite Hedbanz by Spin Master got a complete facelift by using Wikitude’s Image Tracking technology. The popular mask feature (well known by social media filters) is used here to add an interactive digital element. A toy industry legend, Mattel company, introduced a new spin to the popular hit – Pictionary Air. In this game, players can literally draw the words in the air by using a smart device and an app with an AR feature.

    Expanding product features

    Toymakers always rely on storytelling and the power of imaginative play as an immense resource that enhances any product. Yet, the human brain is designed in a specific way making visual information better perceived than anything written or spoken. Augmented reality allows to create life-like elements that add to the storyline and engage players deeply.

    Video source: Virtuali-Tee

    These 2D and 3D computer-generated projections complement the real-world game set, without overtaking the user’s attention. The same goes to learning by doing. By interacting with physical and digital elements of the toy, children improve their sensory skills and learn how to handle simulated reality.

    AR game features make parents commit to buying more easily as they see the added value in the tech element. At the same time, young users maintain a healthy playing habit, engaging with the real world and growing less dependent on the screen.

    Bridging sensorial and digital brand experience

    New technologies like Object Tracking and Instant Tracking make toy concepts more engaging and accessible.

    Thus, with extra investment in AR features, toymakers can achieve double as much retention for the same price. Game experiences with physical products can be easily leveraged to boost the player’s creativity and brand loyalty.

    Revamping marketing campaigns

    Existing within a pressing seasonal agenda, toy brands can benefit from including AR features into their marketing activities. Through product development to marketing strategy and ad campaigns, augmented reality solutions are highly customizable – meaning they could be tailored even to very specific needs and audiences.

    What’s more to it? AR can be used in every format: from remarkable product launches to in-store activations, brand awareness campaigns and creating viral content. To help your clients understand its value, we advise showing the direct relation to revenue and ROI.

    You are now one step closer to explaining to toy industry clients why AR is the next big thing they need to consider. Do you have questions or need advice?

    Contact us to get started

    Read more about Wikitude AR solutions for toy companies:

    For more practical advice: 5 tips how to pitch AR for your next project

    Toys & Games

    Augmented Reality Toys

    Building the next generation of immersive play.

    Augmented Reality Toy experience feat. Remote Control Carrera® Car

    Augmented Reality is shaping the future of play. From physical toys to card games, 2020 has seen a rapid expansion of AR-powered experiences for kids.

    To demonstrate how toy manufacturers can leverage the technology, Wikitude created an impressive Augmented Reality Toy experience for a remote control car. It not only shows the reliability of Object Tracking but also introduces innovative simultaneous AR Tracking functions (Object + Image + Positional Tracking).

    What is real and what is digitally augmented?

    The objective of the toy racer is to complete two full laps in the least amount of time without surpassing the digital boundaries of the augmented track.

    Augmented Reality Toy Experience Analysis

    Technology Used in the AR Experience

    The interaction between the real-world toy car and digital elements is powered by Wikitude Object and Image Tracking augmented reality combined with ARKit and HoloLens Positional Tracking (also compatible with tablets and smartphones).

    Augmented Reality Demo with Simultaneous AR Tracking: Object + Image + Positional

    Wikitude Object Tracking

    Object Target: Carrera® Remote Control Toy Car

    With the advances in Wikitude Object Tracking technology, it is possible to create reliable AR experiences that perform exceptionally well even under challenging circumstances.

    The Object is detected and continues to be precisely tracked. The interactive augmentations appear in accordance with the toy’s position, speed, and movements.

    Augmented Reality Demo: Object Tracking

    Object augmentations to take notice:

    • blue target indicating that the object is being tracked
    • exhaust fumes released when the car is parked
    • exhaust flames that react according to direction and speed
    • tire marks on the asphalt

    Wikitude Image Tracking

    Image Target: Start/Finish Line

    The image target plays an important role in the AR demo as it functions as an anchor point to properly position and lock the digital race track in the desired place.

    The augmented finish line board also records lap times and lap turns. A ranking board appears at the end of the race as well.

    Augmented Reality Demo: Image Tracking

    External Positional Tracking 

    For this demo, ARKit and HoloLens positional tracking was used. Keep in mind, however, that other Positional Tracking providers like ARCore or our own Wikitude Instant Tracking SLAM technology could have been used as well.

    ARKit Positional Tracking: Digital Race Track

    The augmented race track and other digital elements remain steady on the physical asphalt.

    Augmented Reality Demo: ARKit Positional Tracking

    Microsoft HoloLens Positional Tracking

    Wikitude has optimized its AR SDK to support Microsoft HoloLens 1 mixed reality headset devices. In this demo it allows racers to visualize the AR experience in real time.

    Augmented Reality Demo: Microsoft HoloLens Positional Tracking

    Interactive Digital Augmentations

    As seen in the images, the race track has a series of extra digital components apart from the track boundaries itself. 

    Observe how the toy car knocks down piles of tires, flags, signs and any digital content in its path.

    Augmented Reality Demo: Interactive 3D augmentations Tracking

    AR Features Running Simultaneously

    Below you can see all AR components – object, image and the positional feature being displayed, tracked and working simultaneously.

    Check how the flags on the track turn green as the car passes by.

    Augmented Reality Demo: Wikitude Object Tracking + Wikitude Image Tracking + External Positional Tracking

    360° Object + Image + Positional AR Tracking

    Tracking and augmentations remain steady and persistent at any angle.

    360 degree Object + Image + Positional Tracking

    First seen at AWE – Live AR Demonstration

    Many of the attendees of AWE USA 2019 got to see this awesome AR toy experience in action at the Wikitude booth as well as during Wikitude CTO Phil Nagele’s talk

    AWE USA 2019 - Live AR Demonstration

    Interested in creating an AR project of your own? Talk to one of our specialists and learn how to get started.

    Toys & Games

    Ellen DeGeneres’ ‘Game of Games’ Augmented Reality Play-Along Challenge Merges Virtual and Real Life for Increased Viewer Engagement

    HitPoint Studios to present best practices for the Ellen DeGeneres app (powered by Wikitude SDK) at Augmented World Expo

    SALZBURG, Austria /SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 30, 2019 – HitPoint Studios, a software developer specializing in augmented reality and game development, will discuss the best practices used in developing the Ellen DeGeneres “Game of Games’ App on May 30th 11:30 am at Augmented World Expo (AWE), on the Gaming and Entertainment Track (Grand Ball Room G).

    The Ellen crew and Hitpoint will be at the Wikitude booth (419 – main sponsors hall) after the talk to answer any questions.

    The App, built using the Wikitude AR SDK, has been live since January 8th and has brought more than 1.1 million television viewers into the virtual world to play trivia games against real players to win prizes instantly from their devices. “Ellen’s Game of Games” is the first talk show to utilize augmented reality for a play-along challenge. More than 22 million matches have been played and $120,000 has been won by app participants in only a few short months.

    “We are excited to present our Ellen “Game of Games” App to developers at AWE and illustrate the innovative ways that augmented reality is used to create a more engaging experience that helps build viewer loyalty for the TV show,” said Ariella Lehrer, President at HitPoint Studios.

    The Way it Works

    With the chance to take on the “One-Eyed Monster” or get soaked while finding the umbrella full of cash in “Make It Rain,” the more fans play, the more prizes become available, and bigger challenges unlock.

    During each new episode of NBC’s “Ellen’s Game of Games,” viewers can engage with the special augmented reality feature on the app, “Game of Games Play Along Live,” where clues jump right off the television screen and into their phone. Viewers have the chance to play along with the show and win prizes including $5,000 from home!

    “We are pleased that the Wikitude SDK is used to develop first-of-its-kind apps that are entertaining, engaging and deliver clear business value, said Philipp Nagele, CTO “HitPoint is a truly innovative group and we are continually impressed with the ways in which they are incorporating our technology into their solutions.”

    About the Wikitude AR SDK
    Wikitude is the leading independent augmented reality platform for phones, tablets, and smart glasses with over 1 billion app installs. The Wikitude SDK enables developers to create cross-platform AR apps with Image Recognition, Object Recognition, Location-Based AR, Instant Tracking and SMART API including ARKit and ARCore. The AR SDK was elected ‘Best Developer Tool’ 2017 at AWE and is available for JavaScript, Unity, Android and iOS native APIs and other extensions.

    About Wikitude

    Wikitude® is the leading independent augmented reality platform for phones, tablets, and smart glasses with over 100,000 registered developers, 25,000 published apps, and 1 billion app installs. Wikitude enables developers, agencies, and enterprises to create AR experiences that delight, amaze, and provide a tangible return on investment. Learn more at

    About HitPoint Studios

    Founded in 2008, HitPoint Studios is one of the largest independent game studios in Massachusetts, now with offices in Los Angeles. Its talented team of 30 engineers, designers and artists work with clients to build engaging apps and experiences, solve complex technical problems, and maximize the potential of new technologies like augmented reality. Recent clients include Google, Lenovo, EA, Disney, Warner Bros., Caesars, Niantic, Spinmaster, and others.

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