A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences

Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror

Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror 1Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror is an app toy aimed mainly at girls. Using an iPad as a “mirror”, user applies virtual makeup with the supplied toy wand. Via augmented reality, the makeup stays on the user’s face even if she moves her head.

Made by Mattel, Barbie Digital Makeover Mirror turns an iPad into an augmented reality mirror. An iOS tablet is first slid into the Bluetooth-ready “vanity frame”. Using an accompanied applicator wand and a special app, downloadable free from App Store, user can then apply “virtual makeup” on her face. Utilizing both the tablet’s front facing camera and augmented reality, the app projects user’s image with the virtual makeup on. Facial-tracking technology is used to keep track of the user’s face, so that the makeup “stays on” even if the user moves her head. The user picks a color from the mirror stand, and there are a couple of dozen shades to choose from. The makeup can be applied to eyes, cheeks, and lips, and also removed selectively. Specific makeups can be saved for later and customized with virtual stickers etc., while there is also a variety of ready-to-wear looks to choose from.

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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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Monster High

Monster High 1Monster High is a doll line aimed at girls. It focuses on a group of girls who are presented as cute, age-appropriate versions of classic movie monsters. The Mattel created toy line has gained a significant boost in popularity due to a webisode series. 

Monster High is a fashion doll franchise released by Mattel in the July, 2010. The characters are inspired by monster movies, sci-fi horror, and thriller fiction. The Monster High franchise also includes other consumer products such as stationery, bags, key chains, and various other toys. There are also Monster High TV specials, a web series, a direct to DVD movie, game software, and a Monster High young adult novel series, created by Lisi Harrison.

There are two Monster High themed video games (Nintendo DS, Wii). On the Monster High website users can access games, character bios, and several other activities. Monster High webisodes (short, episodic, online episodes which typically last around two minutes), viewable on the site, regularly attract at least 500,000 views and often more than 1 million. With an audience like that, Mattel also has fertile ground for promoting the latest Monster High toy releases. In Mattel’s most recent Q3 financial results (2011), girls’ brands were up 57 per cent, ‘primarily driven by Monster High’.

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Talk With Me Barbie

Talk With Me Barbie 2

Released in 1997, Mattel’s Talk With Me Barbie was a programmable Barbie doll set that came with a special PC-connecting toy-desk and a CD-ROM. With the aid of these the Barbie could pronounce the user’s name and make preprogrammed comments.

Talk With Me Barbie doll from 1997 came with its own PC table that was connected to the user’s PC. The associated program came on a CD-ROM which was included in the package. Using the computer program, the users could select a set of phrases and their own name for Barbie to speak. When the user’s PC was connected to the play set desk and the Barbie was seated by it, the phrases were then stored into the Barbie’s necklace through utilizing infrared beaming, thus allowing the use of the voice functions without any accessories. Barbie (or rather, the necklace) could pronounce over 15,000 names, including a lot of uncommon ones, and even do different kinds of pronunciations. The phrases included on the CD covered a wide array of different kinds of situations. The user did not, however, have a possibility to create his or her own phrases.

Retailing for $90 in the US, Talk With Me Barbie was eventually deemed too expensive to be profitable and discontinued.


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Hot Wheels iNitro Speeders

ImageiNitro Speeders are miniature radio-controlled cars with a carrying case that serves triple duty as the carrying case, charger, and controller. Moreover, the free iNitro app for iOS devices lets players control the car remotely with a host of different control layouts.

iNitro Speeders have lots of zip, going in scale speeds up to 600 miles per hour. What puts the “I” in the iNitro Speeders name is the fact that it is compatible with the iPod Touch, iPad 2, and iPhone. The free iNitro app turns the smart device into a controller for the car. After downloading the app, users attach the R/C adapter into the headphone jack, calibrate the device into controller, and choose one of five ways to drive the car: dual-stick control, motion control, slide, pre-programmed routes, or draw and drive. The app also comes with a host of games and the opportunity to customize your driving profile and keep track of your progress. The Speeders come in three styles: Chevy Camaro, Ford Mustang GT, and Ken Block Fiesta.

The touchscreen app and adapter really do seem like an added value without the added expense. The iNitro system costs only a little bit more than the plain Nitro Speeders from Mattel. The vehicle is powered by a permanently installed Li-Po battery. The controller requires four AA batteries, which are not included. The iControl adapter includes three button cell batteries.