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These Smart Building Blocks Let Kids Build Worlds—Then Explore Them

Want to build a labyrinth of pylons that grow trees and spout waterfalls? In the mixed-reality game Koski, it's simple.

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We all loved growing up with Lego and Lincoln Logs, but it can be easy to see why a child raised on iPad screens might crave more animation and interactivity—all of the magic of pixels, along with the fun of physical constructs. Which is probably why we continue to be amazed by projects like Koski, the final project of RCA graduate Václav Mlynář, recently highlighted at Dezeen.

Koski is a board game consisting of a few Jenga-like blocks and some plastic discs straight out of Tiddlywinks. But these pieces hold two secrets. First, they’re magnetic, so the blocks can be stacked and branched like trees, and the discs can be slapped onto any surface as ornamentation. And second, the discs are tracked by an iPad, which uses augmented reality to add a little blue man and various obstacles, like trees and waterfalls, to the scene.

The goal? It’s tough to tell if there is one—other than to guide this one character through a world of your creation. In this sense, Koski embraces surrealist architectural forms over hard and fast game mechanics, much like the UsTwo masterpiece, Monument Valley, or the self-blueprinting Lego X pieces built by Gravity. But unlike Monument Valley or Lego X, Koski encourages you to construct forms from your imagination and see where they lead your tiny doppelgänger. It asks you to design the architecture and interaction.

Now, there is an inherent awkwardness to playing augmented reality games through a nearby iPad or TV screen. Sony has used its Playstation brand to experiment quite publicly in this space for almost a decade now, and I’ve found the magic of the experience is often lost to the disconnect of looking up from your physical play to the virtual screen. Even in your living room, the gap between your coffee table and TV might as well be a mile. (Have you ever heard of The Eye of Judgement? No? That’s why.) But this may soon change. Tech like Google’s Project Tango, Microsoft’s Hololens, and Magic Leap are all aimed at converging the physical and virtual worlds through a single screen that will live on your eyes rather than in your hand.

If they succeed, the mechanics behind games like Koski only become more appealing. Soon, we’ll live in a world where Lego blocks and Lego movies are more or less indistinguishable. And our kids are so freakin’ lucky for it.

[All Images: via Studio deFORM]

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