Toywheel has cemented its pivot towards being a fully digital experience by releasing its first Augmented Reality (AR) app, Toy Car RC. The app allows kids to drive a virtual car around their real life surroundings by using the standard AR method of printing out a sheet of paper to provide the required perspective.
The Berlin-based company, which won the pitch contest at the first hy! Berlin event in 2012, had previously been a simpler DIY online platform for kids and parents, detailing missions, ideas, and toys.
Now the focus is on teaching kids how to handle new media without overloading them or having them just sit in front of a games console for hours on end.
Toywheel founder and CEO Evgeni Kouris said he wanted to combine the interactivity of video games with the creativity, diversity and educational effect of physical toys: “From our experience with the DIY platform we know: Children want to discover interactive worlds in the same way as they learn about physical world – they don’t differentiate here. That’s why we want to link both realities into one big, intuitive playground. Current AR technology is already quite powerful, but it evolves rapidly especially with new products like Google Glass.”
In the long term, Kouris said he wants everything that can be seen, heard or felt to be reflected in the in the virtual experience in a simple process.
The free Toy Car RC has been released on iOS and is aimed at kids aged between six and eight. The ‘targets’ can be printed on any standard printer and then placed wherever you want, enabling the virtual car – controlled from the iPhone or iPad – to be driven anywhere the children like.
Additionally, Toy Car RC is not goal-driven like most games, meaning kids must rely more on their imaginations.
As it has pivoted, Toywheel has also revamped its team, adding two fathers in the shape of Christian Bittler as co-founder and Marjan Plöderl as head of engineering. Following on from the hy! win and some time in the hub:raum accelerator, and after six months of bootstrapping, the company brought on board three angel investors including Brendan Donovan, a father-of-three and AR expert.
The company plans to release more digital toys during 2014.