Monday, October 1, 2018

When LEGO Saw Losses, It Turned to Tech

Sometimes nostalgia just isn’t enough to keep a beloved toy brand alive and thriving, and LEGO learned this lesson the hard way. We all remember how a bin of Legos and lot of imagination could keep us entertained for hours growing up, but today’s kids are more keen on digital toys than small bricks–and it finally showed in LEGO’s financials. The company’s sales and profits fell by 8 percent in 2017–the first time they dipped in 13 years. With the shock settled in, the toymaker knew they had to begin thinking about how to draw in the next generation of kids.Their answer? Digital experiences. LEGO is turning to online experiences that combine the fun of LEGO building, right on the device they’re already playing on. We already talked about how LEGO is using NFC to create a bridge between their physical bricks and the digital world, so here are a few of LEGO’s most recent tech initiatives:

LEGO’s AR-Studio
One of LEGO’s newest releases is the AR-Studio app that allows kids to mix the physical and digital worlds using augmented reality. In the app, kids can see their favorite LEGO creations come to life and interact with the physical environment around them. The app allows the child to control the movement of the LEGO model, making for an immersive experience that ultimately brings them back to the physical toy. VP of the Creative Play Lab at the LEGO Group, Tom Donaldson, says the app allows the children to have “one hand in each world” as they play. He says it’s one of the many ways that LEGO works to combine the physical and digital for “fun and creative” experiences that will engage children.

LEGO Duplo Stories
Remember those “choose your own adventure” stories? LEGO is implementing their own version–except instead of getting a parent to read the stories, Alexa will do it for you. With a quick voice command (“Alexa, open LEGO Duplo Stories”), kids can now listen to stories created around their LEGO sets that guide them through building and playing with their  creations. These stories work with LEGO’s Duplo bricks–larger bricks for younger children–and the stories cover ten themes that work with new and existing sets. As they play, Alexa prompts the child as they play to engage with different pieces to guide the story along. According to the creative team, these stories are made to help children build skills like color recognition, articulation practice, and creative building challenges. And, they’ll help develop the children’s “constructive, exploratory, and roleplay skills” (and, not to mention, give  parents a great way to distract them while they’re making dinner).

LEGO needed a way to reach a new generation of kids and tech stepped up to the plate. While the numbers aren’t in quite yet proving ROI on their efforts, the LEGO team has said their new digital experiments are going “better than expected”. And with last week’s announcement of their immersive digital store experience in Shanghai, it looks like LEGO won’t stop the digital innovation anytime soon.