Co.Design

Lego's iPhone App: A Brilliant Mix Of Physical And Digital Play

This cleverly designed iPhone app will tickle Lego fans from eight to 80.

I tend not to be thrilled with "enhanced" toys that add a pre-packaged digital layer to the natural interactions that a kid can come up with on her own while playing. They usually seem too cumbersome to be fun (hold your phone-cam carefully while you play with this action figure!) or just not that clever once the novelty wears off. But if anyone were going to design a physical/digital toy that felt "just right," it was going to be Lego. Its new set, Life of George, combines an iPhone app with classic plastic bricks into an "augmented reality" experience that actually feels playful.

Life of George’s prefab digital narrative—George is a software engineer with a yen for traveling and photography and even has his own Facebook page—is the least interesting part of the toy, which actually revolves around a simple but addictive game that challenges you to build pixelated illustrations out of Lego bricks before a timer runs out. The illustrations, furnished by the iPhone app, correspond to "photos" that George has taken on his many travels; tapping a blank photo in an album brings up a picture of the Lego design that you have to build using the multicolored physical bricks. Snap it together, lay it on a speckled "play mat, use the iPhone’s camera to scan your creation, and Life of George" rewards you with points based on how quickly and accurately you built it. I blazed through two rounds, and the only reason I stopped is because I have, y’know, a job.

Life of George isn’t perfect—the polka-dotted pattern on the play mat is only slightly less garish and distracting than a QR code, and the rounds of the game start and stop rather abruptly. (I would have appreciated a three-second countdown to get ready after tapping one of the blank photos.) But no matter how old or young you are, there’s nothing like spreading a pile of Lego blocks on the floor and getting to work—and Life of George cleverly augments this simple pleasure with a game that’s simple enough to play casually alone or with friends. In fact, this game would probably be a hit in the break room of an Internet startup just as much as it would be in the family playroom.

[Read more about Life of George, available for $29.99 from Lego]

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6 Comments

  • Scott Seaborn


    Love this. Gamification works well and I can see it will have some great examples in areas such as child development and even in business (staff development, team builds etc)

    Love the work Lego!

    @scottseaborn

  • KM

    I'm excited about this. My kids are huge Lego fans. Yes, they hunger for new sets and whip out the creations from the step-by-step instructions like little Lego robots. BUT, I've also thoroughly enjoyed watching the sophistication of their personal creations evolve over the years. This game takes it to the app world. And I agree...good ol' train sets are wonderful. So is the train set my son and his friend spent 5 hours building...out of Legos. :-)  

  • Larry Rosenthal

    yes time. but time reverses... as this Lego game shows... Lego went from an open ended creative toy to a pre determined gamed system... one where little johny is trained like pavlovs dog, not da vincis cat:)    anyhow. enjoy the new future, of badge hungry, post literate brown shirts right out of the past...   oh im sure a few kids will break out and still make subversive smashing robot cars with the bricks... no branding required.:)

  • Johndee

    @ Jimmy — 'time', time is what happened... in the future, people will be going 'what happened to the old iPhones — what was wrong with them? Just as people would have once said 'what was wrong with sending kids to the workhouse when they turned 10 years old?,' when they saw kids playing with new fangled 'good old train sets'. It's funny how people are only ever nostalgic for, and think the best decades ever, were 'when they were lads' — you never hear people going 'by gum it wasn't like that back in the days of pre-agrarian society when we had to hunt our own food and die from infection before we hit 25 years old – whatever happened to those days eh??' Train sets were just as much a product of progress as iphones and computers are these days. Er, so there.