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What is an APP brick?

KingDaveKingDave UKMember Posts: 963
edited November 2014 in Everything else LEGO
Just noticed the bottom left of this box, what is an APP brick? I can guess that it is some sort of brick to interface with some sort of software application, but how etc? Is this the first set to have one?

http://brickset.com/sets/70169-1/4x4-Agent-Patrol

It actually says 'Bricks' plural, which makes it even more (well, slightly) more interesting.

Comments

  • ChrisbstmChrisbstm USAMember Posts: 151
    I too, am curious.
  • plasmodiumplasmodium UKMember Posts: 1,936
    All of the sets from this series have that on the box art. They also have a red box around a specific element, labelled "Mission:". I would imagine it's a tablet/phone app. After the relative failure of the last series of "App + Bricks" sets (the app couldn't detect the models you had built properly) it will be interesting to see where they go with this.
  • plasmodiumplasmodium UKMember Posts: 1,936
    A quick Google later and here is a Lego Ultra Agents Android app:
    https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.lego.ultraagents.ultraagents&hl=en

    Here is the description:
    "Astor City is under attack from a mysterious group of Super Villains! Will YOU save it?

    ULTRA AGENT, this is no every day band of Super Villains, it’s going to need everything we can throw at them: our mobile command centre, quad bikes and supersonic jets are all at your disposal.

    Find clues, solve mysteries and save the city by joining the new ULTRA AGENTS – Astor City’s elite crime-fighting force. Use your skills and abilities to stop TOXIKITA stealing the deadly Pollutonium from the lab. Bring down TREMOR as he tries to access the ULTRA AGENTS’ secret computer core. Dare you go head to head with INFEARNO on his flaming hover board?

    Features

    - An Interactive Graphic Story in six thrilling episodes
    - Sharpen your ULTRA AGENT skills with six exciting games!
    - Uncover clues with special futuristic gadgets
    - Find out more about the unique world of the ULTRA AGENTS
    - Track your progress as you become a true ULTRA AGENT operative
    PLEASE NOTE: Recommended usage on tablet devices for an optimal experience. The LEGO® ULTRA AGENTS app is free to play. However, you will experience references to actual LEGO® construction toys and minifigures for inspiration.
    LEGO advises kids to ask for parental consent before downloading!"

    Doesn't say much other than it'll have an interactive comic and some way of using the sets to "uncover clues" - no doubt just a fancy way of getting kids to want all the sets to complete the app game.
  • plasmodiumplasmodium UKMember Posts: 1,936
    edited November 2014
    There's actually a whole lot of info out there - see all the articles here:
    https://www.google.co.uk/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=lego ultra agents app

    Seems that each brick unlocks a 'challenge', which, when completed, gives alternate instructions for the set.
  • rdflegordflego in a world of his ownMember Posts: 324
    I could be confusing things but, like a QR code, you scan them with a smartphone and the app reveals stories and/or other functionality. I think that TLG Life of George is what their trying to replicate here.
  • TLGTLG Member Posts: 125
    Seems like LEGO put some money into this... But kinda flopped.
  • KingDaveKingDave UKMember Posts: 963
    I hope TLG have not spent too much time and effort of this. Straying away from the 'core product' is what got them into trouble a few years back (from what I read). Just stick to designing new interesting sets made of plastic and let the kids (and the others) figure out how to play with it on their own.
  • TLGTLG Member Posts: 125
    KingDave said:

    I hope TLG have not spent too much time and effort of this. Straying away from the 'core product' is what got them into trouble a few years back (from what I read). Just stick to designing new interesting sets made of plastic and let the kids (and the others) figure out how to play with it on their own.

    Well said.
  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,802
    edited November 2014
    The app bricks are little 1x1 bricks with a molded pattern on one side and a stud on the opposite side. They look pretty much exactly how they do in the illustration on those boxes. Each of the new Ultra Agents sets contains "app bricks" built into some kind of decorative object — the flat viewscreen-looking thing in this set, the portal-looking thing in this set, etc. As I understand it, by pressing them onto the surface of a tablet computer (iPad, etc.) it either unlocks or activates something within the Ultra Agents app. I'm no expert on how this works, and whether it involves pressure sensitivity, RFID, or some combination of the two, but what does appear clear to me is that the app bricks in each set are functionally identical, and what determines their effect is their relative positions when built into the intended construction. This is why the construction in each set is a different shape, with some using more app bricks than others.
  • andheandhe UKMember Posts: 2,720
    Sounds like similar technology to what they tried with 'Life of George' and the more recent interactive building sets (the name escapes me, but there was a castle one and a city one).

    I imagine you need to download an app then use you camera to 'scan' the object, which like a QR code will link you to some sort of hidden content. Interested to see how it works though.
  • plasmodiumplasmodium UKMember Posts: 1,936
    Aanchir said:

    As I understand it, by pressing them onto the surface of a tablet computer (iPad, etc.) it either unlocks or activates something within the Ultra Agents app. I'm no expert on how this works, and whether it involves pressure sensitivity, RFID, or some combination of the two, but what does appear clear to me is that the app bricks in each set are functionally identical, and what determines their effect is their relative positions when built into the intended construction. This is why the construction in each set is a different shape, with some using more app bricks than others.

    Where did you hear they were "functionally identical"? I'm not saying you're wrong, it's just I know of no technology built into both iDevices and common Android devices that would allow the same signal coming from a different place/arrangement to give a different output. My money is on them being NFC (near-field communications), as it's definitely not bluetooth. But then it wouldn't be iOS compatible ('cept for the latest iPhone 6, and I'm not sure whether you can use the NFC on that for anything except paying for stuff), so I dunno - maybe they have QR codes too for the iEnslaved out there.
  • emilewskiemilewski CT, USAMember Posts: 475
    edited November 2014
    KingDave said:

    I hope TLG have not spent too much time and effort of this. Straying away from the 'core product' is what got them into trouble a few years back (from what I read). Just stick to designing new interesting sets made of plastic and let the kids (and the others) figure out how to play with it on their own.

    One of TLG's current corporate strategic directions as shared with their internal staff is to look for ways to combine the online/digital world with the traditional physical medium. I believe TLG feels that this is essential for them to stay competitive and relevant in the new digital age.

    Personally I am with KingDave on this and I think they should stick with the physical elements. There is too much online/digital things out there and what is great about Lego is that children (and adults) can unplug and do something creative without all that. Obviously it seems to be doing pretty well so they don't really need to come up with new directions like this.

  • AanchirAanchir United StatesMember Posts: 2,802
    edited November 2014
    emilewski said:

    KingDave said:

    I hope TLG have not spent too much time and effort of this. Straying away from the 'core product' is what got them into trouble a few years back (from what I read). Just stick to designing new interesting sets made of plastic and let the kids (and the others) figure out how to play with it on their own.

    One of TLG's current corporate strategic directions as shared with their internal staff is to look for ways to combine the online/digital world with the traditional physical medium. I believe TLG feels that this is essential for them to stay competitive and relevant in the new digital age.

    Personally I am with KingDave on this and I think they should stick with the physical elements. There is too much online/digital things out there and what is great about Lego is that children (and adults) can unplug and do something creative without all that. Obviously it seems to be doing pretty well so they don't really need to come up with new directions like this.
    Why is it an either/or situation? The LEGO Group has been making both video games AND sets for nearly ten years, and the physical sets haven't suffered for it. This is nothing more than an attempt to connect the two experiences in a new way, which I can only see as a good thing. Why should the LEGO Group's electronic games be totally divorced from their physical products?

    Besides that, who knows whether this actually cost the LEGO Group a lot more to develop than any other app? It's entirely possible that there are no integrated circuits whatsoever in the app brick and it's just a glorified 1x1 brick with side stud.

    The point of integrating the two experiences is not to get kids who love building to play video games so much as to give kids who love video games an incentive to buy the sets. Physical toys have always been the LEGO Group's core business, and the video games are primarily designed to promote the toys, same as with LEGO books, comics, and cartoons.
    Andor
  • emilewskiemilewski CT, USAMember Posts: 475
    ^ Good point.
    Andor
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