At this year’s New York City Toy Fair, LEGO showed off a cute remote-controllable train for toddlers to drive around a track. Now, it turns out that was just the tip of the RC iceberg for the blocky firm.
LEGO unveiled the LEGO Batman App-Controlled Batmobile today, an ages-8-and-up set that, when built, can be driven around using an app on iOS 8.0 and up and Android 5.0 and up smart devices.
The set comes with 321 pieces, a battery hub and twin motors, and retails for $99.99 (about £75, AU$130), and it could make a fun for our list of best toys when it launches later this year.
When the LEGO Batmobile ships on August 1, kids (and kids at heart) will only have the option to drive their crime-fighting car around using a customizable app interface with motion controls.
But, later in the year, LEGO will add coding capabilities, which will let superhero hopefuls program specific sequences of speed, direction, sound and duration to create their own stunts.
Two other Powered Up toys launching in 2018 include the LEGO City Passenger Train and LEGO City Cargo Train.
Unlike the Batmobile, these will stay locked on a track, use a standard RC controller instead of an app, and lack any coding features.
"With Powered Up, we've established a flexible connected platform to enable innovative new play experiences that merge digital and physical play in natural ways that will delight and inspire the builders of today and tomorrow, while still focusing on the core physical play proposition of our System of Play – the LEGO brick," said Michael McNally, a LEGO brand rep.
Boosted LEGOs vs Powered LEGOs
LEGO started adding app tech to its toys last year with LEGO AR-Studio, an Apple ARKit-enabled app that lets LEGO dragons breathe fire, and LEGO Boost, which turns LEGO sets into codable robots.
One of our favorite NYC Toy Fair reveals was the LEGO Ninjago Stormbringer, a dragon that responds to your voice or touch.
Kids use a block interface to program the Stormbringer to perform a series of actions—just as they’ll code the Batmobile to drive in specific patterns.
It appears as though most LEGO Powered Up toys will have RC elements, but only some will have coding functionality or app features, whereas LEGO Boost sets will always use coding apps, but probably won’t have any RC controls.
For instance, one newly announced LEGO Boost toy, the LEGO City Arctic Scout Truck, will drive around solely based on how it's coded in the Boost app.
Unlike the Batmobile, you won’t be able to move it around using motion controls.
Another upcoming Boost toy, the LEGO Creator Expert Roller Coaster, will let kids build their own custom coasters with a motorized chain lift, and code specific actions and real-life sound effects using the Boost app.
All of these sets will ship later this year, mostly in July and August. So, be sure to check the label to see exactly what kind of smart toy tech you’ll be getting.