With kids wanting to get their hands on tablets and smartphones rather than tops and jack-in-the-boxes, traditional toy makers are beginning to feel the heat. Although, it’s hard to imagine a perennial favorite like Lego go under, they aren’t taking any chances as indicated by a display at Sony Computer Science Labs in Tokyo during a recent open house.
The building block maker is partnering with the tech giant to implant some video game magic such as AI and DualShock control into their timeless colored cubes. But that’s not all. Sony Computer Science Labs are cooking up some wild stuff for the young and young at heart.
■ Lego and Sony
The Lego/Sony project is at this time only in the research phase. The aim is to modify Legos to make them more appealing to kids who are into video games. Together the companies are creating block-like sensors and motors that can be used in a variety of ways.
Although this sounds a lot like Lego Mindstorms, these blocks are preprogrammed with certain artificial intelligence. In the demonstration, one Lego toy is equipped with a camera that can track and follow another Lego toy which is controlled by a person holding a DualShock controller.
In addition “backgrounds” can be built with special levers that cause pieces to pop off automatically when triggered by an event. The total result is a video game played in the real world combined with the limitless customization that Lego has to offer.
■ Toy Drone
Sony is also working on a small drone helicopter that the user can control in virtual reality. Wearing a headset, the person can see what the drone sees through a mounted camera. Then by moving, the helicopter follows the same path in parallel.
It’s unsure how this could be used without people walking into walls or traffic, but it looks really cool.
■ Augmented Reality
Sony also looks to be improving AR with a program that can animate and distort real objects in real time. Buildings can be made to look like they’re made of rubber while having a space monkey climbing up the side.
As important as rubber buildings and space monkeys are, this technology could be used to give impressive and stylish visualizations of things. For example you could point your phone’s camera at a movie poster or DVD case and have it glow shiny and fresh or watch it melt into a rotten mess by linking it to reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. The open house also featured the “happy fridge” which refuses to open unless you smile at it. As we reported previously it’s intended to force people to smile on a regular which some say can make us more positive people.
It’s good to see the development of toys and cool stuff is continuing unabated. I can look forward to a future where I spy on my kids with my drone as they recreate the Scorched Earth mission from Call of Duty: MW3 in Lego and my wife takes Prozac so she can have a bologna sandwich. Yessir, It’s all coming together.