EVALUATION

LEGO Vidiyo Review: Finally, a Compelling Use for Augmented Reality

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LEGO Vidiyo

9.00 / 10

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Fun for adults and kids alike, the LEGO Vidiyo range seamlessly melds digital creativity with real-world Minifigures, bringing them to life in ways you could only dream of before.

Specifications

  • Brand: LEGO
  • Theme: Vidiyo
  • Pieces: Varies
  • Mini Figures: 1
  • Age Suitability: 5+
Pros

  • Augmented Reality features are reliable
  • Vidiyo app includes a safe online community for kids to share clips
  • Mix of music genres available
  • BeatBits offer plenty of interesting designs printed on 2×2 tiles
Cons

  • Can't export videos
  • Lucky-dip bags for additional bandmates
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What happens when you mix LEGO Minifigures, random loot boxes, short music videos, and augmented reality? You get LEGO Vidiyo. And it’s glorious. Mostly.

Vidiyo is the LEGO group's latest attempt to appease the digital desires of kids, yet still clings to the fundamental LEGO creative spirit. In a sentence, it’s a music video creator with collectible LEGO Minifigures as the stars.

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Scan and Play

To get started with LEGO Vidiyo, you’ll need to buy a BeatBox. Retailing at $20, these consist of a single Minifigure, a custom case to decorate with LEGO Dots, and a starter set of 16 BeatBits (printed 2×2 tiles; 14 of the included BeatBits are random, 2 are unique to that set).

There are currently 12 different BeatBoxes to choose from, and around 130 BeatBits to collect at the time of writing. The Minifigures are all unique and full of character, as you expect from something that's essentially a variation on the collectible Minifigure range. Each BeatBox has around 70-90 pieces, so don't expect a lengthy traditional LEGO building experience with any of these.

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Building your character's carry case is fairly simple, consisting of four or five pieces, a strap, and some dots and tiles to decorate it. The carry handle looks like a pair of headphones, which is a nice touch.

lego vidiyo- dots

But if you want to jump straight in, all you really need to build to start using the Vidiyo app is the Minifigure and the fold-out staging. Place your character in the center, fold out the sides, and affix up to 12 BeatBits. Scan this into the app to unlock that character for your band.

You can add multiple characters to your band if you own them, but you’ll need to re-scan one of them each time you want to perform (not all of them; just one). Each band can only have three members maximum, and since you might have more than one person using the Vidiyo app, LEGO has made it easy to manage multiple bands, each with its own artwork and costume choices etc. It's worth pointing out that bands can't be given a custom name—the Vidiyo app will generate random names that are family-friendly.

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Make Your First Vidiyo!

To start performing, pick a song. The song choices rotate every so often, rather than being an ever-growing library, which is a good reason to check in now and then to see what's available. This week it's an eclectic mix with everything from modern pop (I won't pretend to know any of it), to Guns 'n' Roses—so you're always sure to find something you like. You can't use your own music though.

Image Gallery (3 Images)

Once you've chosen the song, you need to scan at least one of the characters in your band (again), as well as up to 12 BeatBits.

lego vidiyo- beatbits

BeatBits are special effects to use while you record the music video. These vary from environmental effects, video warps, or audio filters. You don’t need to worry about orienting the BeatBits the right way up—the app will recognize them regardless. You can store spare BeatBits in the back of the carry case.

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lego vidiyo- storage

Next, choose a real-world location to be your stage, and scan around so the Augmented Reality system can recognize the environment. Here’s where things get really interesting. On the left-hand side, you can choose the scale that your mini-figures perform at:

  • Minifig scale, which is the same as actual LEGO sets, so you can have them dance alongside your existing LEGO without looking out of place; or build them a custom stage.
  • Human scale, so you can dance alongside your band, or just see them in life-size.
  • Massive, where they become giants.
lego vidiyo screen- lifesize

Point your device around the stage (that is, the camera) and the performers will follow. Once you've picked the exact location you want them to stand in, click through to the main performance interface. Here, your band will begin performing autonomously, lip-syncing to the music. As the video director and cameraman, you’ll have access to all the special effects buttons you initially scanned, as well as the ability to move the camera around. If you point toward a specific performer, you can also click the round profile icon that appears to instruct them to do their own special move. For those with smaller hands, it's easier to do this on a smartphone rather than a tablet purely due to the weight of the device. My son's videos frequently ended up aimed at the floor while he tried to simultaneously hold the heavy tablet in one hand and press the screen in the other.

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lego vidiyo screen- drum solo

Of course, if you have friends who want to star in the video too, you can shout directions to them (or just "get out the way, mum!").

Each video lasts a minute, at which point you can preview and save your creation. Completing a performance will also unlock things like costume changes, band art, and other aesthetic elements.

But You Can’t (Really) Share Anything

Did your little darling create a hilarious video that you’d love to share to the family Snapchat group? Sorry, you can’t. Not only is there no way within the app to share directly to any social networks; but there’s also no way to download the creation to the device storage then get a parent to manually share it out. If you're absolutely determined, you could hook up your device to a computer and record the screen, but honestly, who has the time for that?

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I completely understand the decision not to include any share options directly within the app; after all, this is designed for children, and children aren’t even allowed on most social networks. What you can do is save it within the app, or share a 5-20 second clip of it to the Vidiyo community feed. You should only do so if there aren't any actual people featured in the video. As you'd expect from a LEGO app, it's heavily moderated, so should your child want to browse other's creations, you shouldn't have any concerns about unsuitable material appearing.

Not having the ability to export the video in any way at all feels like a massive missed opportunity. One might presume it comes down to rights issues of the music, but that seems unlikely given they're 60-second clips, not even whole songs. I suspect it's more because LEGO really doesn't want the app being used inappropriately.

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Expanding With Bandmates and Boombox

Similar to the mini figure series, Bandmates packs offer a single random Minifigure to add to your band, as well as one unique and two random Beat Bits. They’re not cheap though, coming in at $5 each. This kind of lucky dip bag isn’t new to LEGO (the entire collectible Minifigure line is sold in that way), but that doesn’t make them any less heinous: the physical equivalent of loot boxes.

lego vidiyo- bandmates

The most expensive addition to the Vidiyo line, the BoomBox adds a physical stage and four custom environments for your band to perform on; as well as four new bandmates, weighing in at 996 pieces for $100. LEGO has also launched some smaller stages for the European market, though it's not yet clear if those will make it to the US.

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A Very Brief History of Digital LEGO Play

LEGO has remained a reliable treatment for the modern problem of screen addiction in children, so when the two worlds collide, the results are always interesting. While the LEGO group has had countless successes with original video games, it's only recently begun embracing the digital arena directly as a play feature with its brick playsets.

For the older crowd, the Mindstorms EV3 and Robotics kits offer technical builds and Scratch-like programming options. Dimensions was a curious mash-up of physical and digital, using RFID to import characters into a video game, though ultimately was little more than a fancy way of typing in a secret code. The PoweredUp line of cars and trains offers Bluetooth remote control via a smartphone app.

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LEGO first experimented with Augmented Reality in the form AR Studio, and Playgrounds; both were quickly shelved. More recently it saw success with the Hidden Side sets, in which users could use AR to bring the models to life and play a number of ghost hunting games.

Should You Buy Into LEGO Vidyo?

Despite its shortcomings when it comes to exporting your creations, the Vidyo range has proven to be popular in the household, both for this big 39-year-old boy and his 7-year-old mini-me. LEGO has finally nailed a compelling use case for Augmented Reality; one that engages children and adults alike with creative screen time, seamlessly melting the digital and physical play.

lego vidiyo screen- gallery perform

The recent additions of new stages show LEGO is committed to the range, and even if the digital disappears, you’ll be left with some amazing mini-figures and unique pieces to use in your own creations.

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At $20 for a Vidyo BeatBox, the buy-in price to try it out isn’t bad either; though it’s a shame some of the additional characters come in the form of lucky bags.

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