A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences

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Disney Appmates

App Toys 3Disney Appmates is a line of Cars 2 (2011) themed toys and a free iPad app. Players place the toy car on the iPad and then, by turning the car, control a virtual version of it cruising around different landscapes, presented from a top-down view. 

An “appcessory” game from Disney, Appmates consists of toy cars themed around Pixar’s Cars 2 and a free game app downloadable for iPad. The toy cars are “driven” across the top of an iPad: the user holds the car in the center of the screen while the scenery races by. The toys interact with the Appmates app through special pads at the bottom of the cars. There is no need for any other accessories or installations beside the app, as the app recognizes the pads and activates as soon as the toy is placed on it. (The game, however, can be fooled by placing fingers in the same spots, and driven without the toy.) Headlights and different optional accessories appear on screen around the toy, as if they were really attached to it. The game is based around different locations from the Cars movies and lets players drive around courses, complete missions and collect special hubcaps which can be used as virtual currency to by virtual items in the game.

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Foam Fighters

Foam Fighters 2An appcessory game from WowWee, Foam Fighters utilizes a line of small detailed foam airplanes (free to be flown on their own) that attach to the smart device to allow the user to “fly” the plane in simulated situations on the screen.

In Foam Fighters players take to the skies with foamy WWII fighter planes. Developed as a part of WowWee’s AppGear line of appcessory game-toys, Foam Fighters utilize a method of attaching the model foam airplane to the smart device via a suction-cup mounting arm. The app, available free for iOS and Android, then recognizes the plane through the back camera of the smart device.  When viewed through the device screen, the attached plane can be seen flying, fighting and taking digital damage.

The physical game box includes two fighters, two fold-out stands and one suction-cup mounting arm. Each plane unlocks a different campaign based on historical battles (Battle of the Pacific, Battle of Britain and Battle of Europe) and players can choose either Axis or Allied forces. Missions include dog fights, bombing runs, landing and refueling, and escorting units. Earning points allows players to upgrade the planes with different guns and bombs. The game can also be played in multiplayer mode, including eight players skirmish mode over local wi-fi.

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Apptivity 3Mattel’s Apptivity toy line enhances popular smart phone games with physical figurines. Apptivity toy characters can be used to control existing games such as Angry Birds and Fruit Ninja through capacitive plastic pads placed at the bottom of the figurines.

Mattel’s Apptivity toys are an example of the larger trend of “appcessories”, various physical accessories designed to enhance and complement related smartphone applications. Touch-sensitive contacts on the bottom of Apptivity toys allow players to use the toy characters for controlling related iPad games, normally controlled with finger.

There are other bonuses as well. In Fruit Ninja using the Apptivity toy with an updated version of the existing app unlocks an exclusive multiplayer mode. In it, the Sensei toy can be used to push fruits and bombs off a conveyor belt and into the competitor’s area, catching them up and making them fail.

Along with Fruit Ninja, toys for Cut the Rope and Angry Birds activate special game modes (the latter will even let you play as the pigs!). Additionally, Apptivity toys are available at least for Hot Wheels, The Dark Knight Rises, Barbie, WWE, and Monster High brands.

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Spellshot 1Spellshot is an appcessory board game in Hasbro’s zAPPed toyline. Each player controls an elemental wizard figurine which is moved on an iPad as in a board game. Competing for treasures, players then cast spells by drawing runic shapes on the touch screen.

Spellshot is a two-player turn-based game in which players compete in collecting a certain number of treasures. The game is played by moving wizard figurines on iPad. Each figurine has three contact points on its base in different configurations. This lets the iPad and the app recognize the character. Players can cast different types of spells (3 in the basic game, 5 in the advanced game) by tapping a spell and then quickly drawing a corresponding shape. The four wizards, representing the four elements, each have different shapes to draw for their spells, and slightly different abilities.

On their turn, players move around within the areas they have claimed, while the territory will automatically expand a small amount around player’s ending position. Players either collect a treasure, cast a spell, or pass. Some spells will do things like enlarge your territory or grab treasures. Each wizard also has a shield and two attack spells: one traps the other player so they can’t move next turn, and the other reduces their spell power.

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Techpet 3Bandai’s TechPet is a robot pet toy dog with an iPhone for a face. Users take care of the TechPet, level it up and earn rewards. TechPet is an example of an app toy, toys that in one way or another incorporate a smart device application into a play experience with a toy.

The winner of the award for best ‘Innovative toy’ at Tokyo Toy Fair 2012, called SmartPet in Japan and re-branded as TechPet for the UK market, the electronic dog TechPet incorporates an iPhone or iPod touch into its animatronic body. Like a Tamagotchi, it needs to be taken care of and can be taught to perform tricks on command. TechPet can also take calls and play games and music. The TechPet app, downloadable for free, can be used also when the phone is removed from the toy, so the user can continue to look after the pet, level it up and earn rewards while on-the-go.

Like with Tamagotchi, Bandai believes that it has a hit product with TechPet – one that really makes the most of the ‘app toy’ concept as it utilises a full range of the iPhone’s features; the touch screen, camera and microphone – combined with an animatronic package. Still, the marketing in Europe will be kept relatively low-key for the time being.

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ImageiPieces is a series of games for the iPad, such as Snakes & Ladders and Fishing, which, instead of touch commands, uses physical pieces to facilitate play. iPad acts as a digital game board that recognizes the pieces on the board and interacts with them.

iPieces are felt-bottomed game tokens that interact with the retro-style games available in the iPieces app series for the iPad. Four sets are available: Snakes & Ladders, Air Hockey, Game of Goose, and Fishing. The Fishing game comes with little rods that you press down on the iPad screen, and then grab the fish and pull them into your little buckets on the screen, while watching for the stork that tries to steal you collection of fish. In Snakes and Ladders users get four pieces which can be placed on the board and two little bridges that can be used as ladders. Players flick a virtual dice on the iPad, and when they land on a ladder square the ladder piece lets the player to see where she can jump to. Landing on a snake turns it alive; the player has to move back down the board. Game of Goose, too, uses virtual dice and features special animations, such as jail gates closing down and a goose flying across the screen, that either send the player back to start or move her up in the game.

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ImageAkodomon is an appcessory  adventure game where players use a special AR cage to move their Akodomon creature in and out of the game app and to care, feed and groom it. Players are also able to strengthen the Akodomon by scanning a physical Akodomon toy.

In Akodomon, an AppGear appcessory game from WowWee, players explore the virtual world of Akodomon, discover hidden regions and engage in battles to restore peace to the land. Playing Akodomon consists of an Akodomon creature, the AR cage, an AR marker and the Akodomon game app. While physical components all come with the game box purchase, the app is available free for the iOS and Android. During play, players are able to scan their Akodomon toy in order to transform their creature into an all-powerful alter ego, Colossus. Each of the six Akodomon has its unique strengths and abilities. The AR cage is used to care for the Akodomon in the real world: the app will indicate when Akodomon needs to be send to its cage for grooming. Using the AR cage, the creature can also be fed in order to power it up. The AR marker, shaped like a tree stump, is used for head-to-head battles with a friend in co-op AR mode. When viewed through a smart device, the AR marker will become the center of the arena.

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Zombie Burbz

ImageIn Zombie Burbz, an appcessory game for iPad, player controls a zombie by utilizing a zombie action figure. By moving the figurine on iPad players fend off attacking humans with screams, burps, and other weapons, and lure them into traps.    

In Zombie Burbz, developed by WowWee as a part of its AppGear line, the zombies want to keep up with the Joneses, not eat them. Player is tasked with fighting off angry mobs of the living and feed the zombies with their preferred food, garbage. The game box contains three collectable figurines, one deluxe figure, a storage ring for the deluxe figure and one quick start guide. The game is controlled with the deluxe figure. Each deluxe zombie figure unlocks its own unique storyline and missions (there are four Zombie Burbz packs: Avenue, Services, High and Diner).

The player controls the game by moving the zombie figure on the iPad with one hand, directing it to face the right direction of oncoming enemies, while the other hand taps virtual iPad buttons, deploying different weapons. This way, the gameplay actually resembles old school arcade style gaming, as the player appears to be holding a small joystick, while hitting the “arcade cabinet” buttons with her other hand.

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Balloon paperApp

ImageThe Balloon paperApp by les editions volumiques combines a papercraft hot air balloon with an iPad app. The paper balloon, placed on the iPad and appearing to float due to a shadow effect, can be directed by finger swipes simulating bursts of wind.

The Balloon paperApp combines a small papercraft balloon with an iPad video game. While the app is free, the Balloon is delivered in a regular picture book which, on its last page, features a pop-up paper hot air balloon to lay on top of the iPad screen (thus “continuing” the journey of a hot air balloon featured in the book).

The player lays the hot air balloon pop-up on top of the iPad screen, after which a swipe of a finger lifts the balloon in air. The player controls the direction of the wind and tries to hit tags on the ground by landing on them. The illusion of the paper craft floating is achieved, simply enough, by the app displaying a virtual shadow “cast” by the balloon (from large to small depending on the altitude of the balloon). The balloon drifts gracefully over the virtual scenery (depicted in stylistically minimalistic fashion), flies through the clouds, passes close to birds and other characters, and is able to land any time.