How Lego became the apple of toys

Every September, largely unknown to the rest of the company, a group of around 50 Lego employees descend on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, armed with sunscreen, huge containers of Lego bricks and a decade of research into the shapes. in which children play. The group, called Future Lab, is the Danish toy giant’s secret and highly ambitious R&D team tasked with inventing entirely new and technologically enhanced ‘play experiences’ for children around the world. Or, as Lego Group CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp puts it, “it’s about discovering what is obviously Lego, but has never been seen before.”

On a Tuesday morning, the group gathers in a room full of books by the pool at the Hotel Trias, in a quiet town called Palamós, where they have met for each of the last six years. There are bespectacled guys in futuristic sneakers, a small cohort of stylish blonde women, and a much larger contingent of millennial tech guys in superhero t-shirts, all filling rows of folding chairs. Leading the room, Erik Hansen, a senior member and professor of Future Lab’s leadership team, is running the activities planned for the week, including extensive brainstorming sessions and a field trip to Barcelona (visiting the giant of Telefónica telecommunications and some local designs). Business). He presents the agenda in a sober and vaguely robotic tone that makes what he does next surprising. When the procedure is done, he asks, cheering, “Does everyone feel great?” The team laughs and applauds, Hansen plays the game on a laptop, and suddenly all the Future Lab team members enthusiastically join together at summer camp to sing a song etched in the memory of everyone who made the game. last yearThe Lego movie a $ 468 million global hit. If you are not one of them, it is like this:

Everything is amazing!
Everything is great when you are part of a team!
Everything is amazing!
When we are living our dream!

In the movie, the song is used satirically. Lego people living in a Lego world sing it because they have been brainwashed by an almighty corporation to mindlessly but joyfully accept a prepackaged set of beliefs and desires, including uncompromising adherence to the rules. It’s, as the movie shows, the opposite of the free-field creativity that has made Lego toys beloved by kids and their parents for decades, and it’s a bit of an ironic pick for today’s gathering. But taken at face value, it’s an effective team building exercise, and the Future Lab can definitely use momentum, because their job is tough.

Over the past 10 years, Lego has become nothing less than the Apple of toys – a design-driven, profit-generating miracle built around premium, intuitive, and highly coveted hardware that fans can’t get enough of. . Last year, fueled in part by The Lego Movie With the popularity of Pixar’s size, the privately-owned company briefly emerged ahead of rival Mattel to become the world’s largest toy maker, reporting first-half earnings of $ 273. million in revenue of $ 2.03 billion. It’s a remarkable achievement, particularly considering that Mattelmanufactures a wide variety of products, including Barbie, Hot Wheels, Fisher-Price, and even Lego knock-offs of Mega Bloks, while Lego sticks primarily to single-toy variations. The company has recently moved beyond its core markets of Europe and North America with a big push into Asia, where it experienced double-digit growth in 2013. A new manufacturing and distribution center is being built in China solely to satisfy growing demand on that side of the planet “It’s a very simple idea,” says Knudstorp. “All the bricks are complementary. They all fit together. What creates a system in which you can be infinitely creative.

Now, as the rest of the company continues to refine its half-century-old mission, building helicopters, fire trucks and ninja castles, the Future Lab has to live up to its lofty name and invent the future of Lego in a hurry. world where the game is increasingly digital.

That’s why Future Lab relies on this intense week of brainstorming, group meals, and mid-ideation hopping in the pool. It all leads to a 24-hour hackathon, where small teams: various combinations of industrial designers, interaction designers, programmers, ethnographic researchers, marketers, and even master builders (Lego assistants who can create anything out of bricks, like the one in George Washington head or an X-Wing Starfighter) – Compete to generate bigger, deeper and more incredible ideas to be sought out in Denmark. “We came here because we made the place cheap,” jokes Future Lab boss Søren Holm, a jovial layman. “But really, the team spirit that we have? They will talk about this trip all year long.

About a decade ago, it seemed like Lego might not have much of a future at all. In 2003, the company, based in a small Danish village called Billund and owned by the same family that founded it before World War II, was on the brink of bankruptcy, with problems lurking like tree rot. Faced with increasing competition from video games and the Internet, and plagued by an internal fear that Lego would be perceived as outdated, the company had been making a number of mistakes. Day-to-day management had been turned over in 1998 to a “change expert” with no toy experience who still lived in Paris, as described by business writer David C. Robertson in his 2013 Lego story, Brick by Brick.. There were disastrous detours away from the core experience, including the abysmal morning cartoon Galidor, and experiments with larger, more macho minifigures with a line called Jack Stone. The company continued to open Legoland theme parks around the world, despite having limited experience in hospitality. Sales of several of Lego’s most successful products, including Lego Star Wars and Harry Potter lines, rises and falls according to movie release schedules over which Lego had no control. And the company vastly increased the number of products it released each year, resulting in a terrible Christmas season of 2002, when major retailers ended up with about 40% of their Lego stock unsold.

Enter Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, a deeply process-driven thinker, and not coincidentally, father of four, who came from McKinsey & Co. in 2001 and was promoted to CEO three years later, when he was 36 years old. Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, grandson of Lego founder Ole Kirk Christiansen.) Knudstorp points to an expensive company called Darwin as an example of what Lego had been doing wrong. The project was intended to establish a meticulous digital library of each Lego item, which involved setting up what Robertson, in his book, called “the largest installation of Silicon Graphics supercomputers in northern Europe.” The main application ended up being an online software tool called Lego Digital Designer, which allowed fans to design their own kits using the digital bricks and receive their custom sets in the mail. The problem was, it had no appeal. “We found that most consumers think that’s the core Lego experience – they buy a few bricks and make their own products,” says Knudstorp. “There is no reason for them to design it in advance and pay for it. They just want to buy the bricks.

Knudstorp began to change the company by making several key moves: improving processes, reducing costs, and managing cash flow. Then came stabilization. “But after that, we knew there would be a third phase of organic growth,” he says. That required figuring out what a modern Lego should be, which Knudstorp accomplished in part by investing in a type of research the company had never done before: in-depth ethnographic studies of how children around the world actually play. Today Lego may know as much about that subject as any organization on earth. The Future Lab (along with a similar group that preceded it) has been responsible for that work. “There is the famous quote that if you want to understand how animals live, you don’t go to the zoo, you go to the jungle,” says Knudstorp. “The Future Lab has really pioneered that within Lego, and it has not been a theoretical exercise. It has been a real design innovation approach, from which we have learned a lot.

This year, the small team within Future Lab that was in charge of the research became part of the company’s fast-growing Global Insights team, one of the main ways Future Lab thinking is finding its way into a larger company. It is run by Anne Flemmert-Jensen, a former academic with an artistic vibe, reflected today in the leather leggings, long sweater, and asymmetrical necklace she is wearing. Global Insights does much of its research, but it also partners with universities around the world and works with large agencies like Ideo. Global Insights even takes care of tracking a wide range of sales data and monitoring what the competition is doing. They know a lot about you and your children, and not everything is flattering. “There is a clear distinction between American and European parents that keeps popping up everywhere,” says Flemmert-Jensen. “American parents don’t like play experiences where they have to step in and help their children a lot. They want their children to be able to play alone. We see among European parents that it is okay to sit on the floor and spend time with the children. (When asked if it is possible for American parents to just want their children to be independent, she answers, somewhat dubiously, “That’s one of many possible interpretations.”) They want their children to be able to play alone. We see among European parents that it is okay to sit on the floor and spend time with the children. (When asked if it is possible for American parents to just want their children to be independent, she answers, somewhat dubiously, “That’s one of many possible interpretations.”) They want their children to be able to play alone. We see among European parents that it is okay to sit on the floor and spend time with the children. (When asked if it is possible for American parents to just want their children to be independent, she answers, somewhat dubiously, “That’s one of many possible interpretations.”)

The Friends line “has been very, very successful,” says CEO Knudstorp. It has been infected with girls in markets from China to Germany and the United States.

In 2011, Lego acted on some of its research by launching a major effort to attract girls to the brand with a line called Lego Friends. Lots of girls already enjoyed Lego toys, but there was no play theme: Lego-speak for a higher-level category, such as Lego City or Star Wars., which can cost hundreds of millions of dollars to launch, designed for them. For the Pink and Purple Accented Friends, the original marketing commitment alone was $ 40 million, and while it drew some criticism for kits that include the Heartlake Mall and a juice bar, there is also a news van and booth. farm and various sets dedicated to the curvy long-haired characters who rescue endangered animals in a jungle. And it reveals some interesting Lego ideas about the game. For one thing, kids tend to feel more compelled by a strong narrative, which is reflected in popular kid-focused Lego lines like Ninjago and Legends of Chima, which come with almost comically detailed backstories. Girls, on the other hand, tend to use their sets for role-playing games. (Both boys and girls love the construction look of Lego.) In any case, Friends, according to Knudstorp, has been a huge success. “It is very, very successful,” he says. “It caught the girls in markets from China to Germany to the United States, and it continues to grow very strongly for us.”

Friends, like Ninjago and Chima, and The Lego Movie and its upcoming sequel – represents the company’s growing reliance on its own intellectual property. Knudstorp says the licensing deals are still thriving, “but they don’t contribute more than about a third of our business,” he adds. “They’re on a list of about 10 things that drive business growth.”

What is the ultimate goal of Lego? Is it growth for the sake of growth? As a private company, Lego has no need to prove anything to the markets or shareholders. According to Knudstorp, he only has to worry about “the shareholder,” the Christiansen heirs, who have two official goals: that Lego continues to create innovative play experiences and reach more children each year. “They are not pushing us too hard on the financial goal,” he insists. “What they like about, say, Lego Friends is that we are involving more children.” They see growth as a testament to whether we are innovative enough.

Eight years ago, a Chicago architect named Adam Reed Tucker,Those who had been building impressive Lego models of iconic buildings approached Lego, suggesting that the company might be interested in making official kits similar to their homemade creations. “Doing anything that wasn’t for the target group, who were kids between, say, 5 to 11 years old, used to be almost a complete impediment,” says David Gram, Future Lab’s head of marketing and business development. But one executive Free from Norwegian Lego named Paal Smith-Meyer, Holm admiringly describes him as “a true maverick”, saw the value in AFOL (Adult Fans of Lego) and developed a stealthy little plan to prove himself to companies. It came in the form of a counter offer, which would help usher in the current era of innovation at Lego.

“We told him to do it,” says Gram. “We provided the bricks for him and he sat in his kitchen in his two-bedroom apartment, making the first 200 boxes for the Sears Tower and the Hancock Tower.” In 2007, the homemade sets that would become the very popular Lego Architecture line appeared in some local stores, and they not only sold, but they sold for much more money than a children’s kit with the same number of pieces. , because Lego could charge adult prices. “Seventy dollars instead of 30!” Gram adds. “That proved the case.”

David Gram leads marketing and business development for Lego’s Future Lab Photo: Nikolaj Møller

In 2011, Lego launched another innovation, which it had been testing under the name Lego Cuusoo in Japan since 2008: the crowdsourcing site Lego Ideas, where superfans can submit suggestions for sets, other fans vote, and Lego produces limited editions of the ones. best and most popular (like Back to the Future DeLorean and the GhostbustersEctomobile, which is now widely marketed). “The kids aren’t buying them,” Gram says. They don’t know what those things are. Surprisingly, even a year ago, management was still not entirely comfortable with the idea. “They said:” This is something we do not know, it is very ingenious “. And now? “I can’t tell you the numbers, but it worked well,” says Gram. “I like very well!” He laughs happily. “And now it is being considered as something that could be something serious for the company in the future.”

In addition to knowing who is playing with its products, Lego is learning how. Future Lab’s research has shown that children no longer make meaningful distinctions between digital play, like Minecraft, and physical play, such as assembling a Nindroid MechDragon (a half-robot, half-pterodactyl ninja enemy, obviously) from Legos. It is the basis of Future Lab’s ongoing summary, called “One Reality,” which emphasizes Lego’s new digital-physical hybrid experiences that typically involve playing with a set of bricks alongside software that runs on a phone, tablet, or computer. .

Late last summer, Lego quietly debuted a Future Lab pilot project called Lego Fusion, limited to North American Toys “R” Us stores and Lego retail stores. There were four versions, at $ 34.99 each: Town Master, Battle Towers, Create & Race, and Resort Designer. The gaming experience is similar for everyone: a child builds a model of a house or castle, takes a photo with a tablet, and watches their creation become part of a virtual world within an accompanying app.

The Future Lab offers “a real design innovation approach, from which we have learned a great deal,” says Knudstorp.

Kids and parents seem intrigued, and Fusion Town Master ended up on last year’s Toys “R” Us list of the 15 Best Christmas Toys (which some Future Lab staff believed had a lot to do with Lego’s relationship. with the retailer, and the exclusivity agreement, as with their actual popularity). But even its creators admit that Fusion was, at best, a version 1.0 of a digital-physical gaming experience. “Maybe a 0.9,” says Gram with a smile. The thing is, it’s still not that great. In Town Master, for example, kids don’t build a house in 3-D: they use a handful of special bricks to make a flat outline of a house, which only turns completely 3-D when it appears in the app. “With Fusion we create a kind of game,” he continues. “Right now it’s very much based on” You build a model, you scan it in a game. ” I think we will see other patterns.

There is an old Simpsons episode where Bart visits Angrymagazine and is disillusioned to discover it’s a boring old office, until he ducks his head out the door again and catches Alfred E. Neuman and the gang in a state of utter pandemonium. Visiting Billund, the city that Lego built, is a bit like that. Only 6,194 people live here, the population increases every morning from Monday to Friday when the 4,000 Lego employees arrive. (There is so little to do in Billund at night that a large percentage of employees live more than 50 miles away in the nearest major city, Aarhus.) Located near the Lego campus are a few small businesses, an unappealing Modernist church, a few hanging office buildings, and, in almost surreal testament to the founding family’s wealth and influence, Denmark’s second-largest airport.

But if you are lucky, you could try the magic of Willy Wonka. For one thing, you’re likely staying at the Legoland Hotel, possibly in a room with, for better or worse, a pirate or princess theme and brick boxes that you can play with after raiding the minibar. (The hotel is adjacent to the original Lego theme park, of which the company sold a majority stake, along with three other outposts, to a British company called Merlin in 2005.) Just down the street is the main administrative building, with a bright yellow color. lobby designed to look like the world’s largest 2 × 4 brick and a massive logo behind the reception desk, built from 12,500 minifigures.

Walk a little further and you’ll come to the main campus, a group of buildings that has grown around an old stately home with a pair of lions out front. The house is Lego’s holiest place, built in 1932 by the company’s founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, when he settled in Billund as a carpenter. When demand for furniture collapsed during the Great Depression, it began making wooden toys, such as ducks, tractors, and yo-yos. He named the company Lego, a contraction of the Danish phrase leg godt (which translates to “play nice”), in 1934.

The entire saga, from the wooden ducks to the recent bankruptcy and beyond, is told in a charming private museum called the Idea House, which makes its way through Christiansen’s old home. It’s open to inspiration seeking staff, retailers, and other VIP visitors, and includes an archive of nearly every Lego kit ever made, stored in climate-controlled basement piles. ( Fans wanting an equally immersive adventure will have to wait until next year, when the Lego House “experience center” opens around the corner.) Alone in one hallway is a piece of technology from the 1940s: an injection molding machine that would change the way children play forever. In 1945, Christiansen met with a supplier of these machines and quickly recognized their potential to produce colorful objects in virtually any shape. Surprisingly, the idea for the bricks didn’t actually occur to him

The supplier had several examples of things one could make, including a plastic brick that a British company called Kiddicraft already had on the market. Intrigued, Christiansen pocketed one to continue studying. Deciding there was potential, he bought one of the machines, redesigned the brick, and, in 1949, released his own version, calling them self-bonding bricks.

Even if Christiansen couldn’t take credit for the idea, he came up with the key twist that makes Legos so satisfying. The bricks in the early sets had the posts on top, so they were neatly stacked, but were hollow underneath, so the models had a frustrating tendency to crumble. He experimented with his stud and tube solution until he had exactly the right amount of ‘clutch power’, which is Lego-speak for the perfect, proprietary amount of stick, tight enough to build models that can sustain loud play, but loose enough that they can be easily separated. Except for a material change in 1963 for the tough, shiny ABS plastic that is still used today, the basic bricks have never changed.

But pretty much everything else has done, starting with the introduction of the preschool-centric Duplo in 1969 and minifigures in 1978. The best way to get a feel for the variety of Lego’s current portfolio, which includes roughly 3,000 unique items. in more than 50 colors. options: is to see them all in one place. Innovation House, a spacious, open building (with an indoor slide) where most designers work, has a room the size of a public library where designers can grab whatever they need, such as 2x4s in each color and hundreds of small Darth Vader is heading. If a project requires a part that currently doesn’t exist, a prototyping shop can speed it up. (The future head of laboratory, Holm, remember having to draw schematics by hand and submit them for fabrication. Now the process happens with the push of a button). However, new items are not added to the portfolio lightly, as it costs as much as $ 250,000 to make a new mold, and all new items must first be vetted by the Model Committee.

Future Lab’s headquarters are in an old, two-story yellow brick building across the plaza,intentionally separated from the other design groups. “One thing I’ve learned is how important it is to protect yourself as a team,” says Holm. “We have a tendency to work on experiences that are very far from what Lego does today. The perception can be like, “Come on, guys, that can never work.” And it’s so easy to kill an idea. Entry requires multiple passes of an ID card, and only staff assigned to the group and a handful of top management have access. It’s a clandestine place within a company generally close to the vest, with a former designer comparing the Lab to working for the CIA. (Even staff spouses have no idea what their partners spend their days working on.)

On a gray October afternoon, Future Lab’s chief designer Ditte Bruun Pedersen is having a cup of herbal tea in a common area at the Innovation House. Trained architect with Tintin-ish short blonde hair, she ranges from analytical to enthusiastic, a very lay personality. (Holm describes her as “positive, energetic and with a fantastic skill set; she knows under her skin what is Lego and what is not”). Prior to assuming her current leadership role, Pedersen was the design lead on the Fusion project and knows as much as anyone in the company. It turns out that there are many challenges posed by the physical-digital game perspective. For one thing, it’s not necessarily an intuitive experience for kids, so the flow between laying the bricks and picking up the tablet (or vice versa) needs to be carefully choreographed. It is also crucial that neither the brick set nor the digital component feel stuck, which turns out to be especially difficult to correct. “We were very focused on making sure it felt balanced,” she says. “We had some experiences where we thought, ‘There’s something wrong here,’ and it turned out that the Lego had been reduced to a key that unlocked digital reproduction. Where is the fun in that? « Where is the fun in that? « Where is the fun in that? «

Before Ditte Bruun Pedersen assumed her current leadership role, she was the design lead for the Fusion project and knows as much about him as anyone else in the company. Photo: Nikolaj Møller

Pedersen recently returned from a trip to Boston, where he spent time with children who had been living with Fusion for a while. (These children were not given the sets as part of a focus group; their parents actually went to a store, saw them on the shelf, and decided to buy a set.) He had observed some interesting things. For one thing, it strangely never occurred to anyone at Future Lab that the tablets kids would have access to might have covers, which, in turn, changes the way a child is more likely to hold the device, making it difficult to take the photo at the correct angle. It is a major and frustrating impediment to flow. They also discovered that one set, Create & Race, was not as satisfying an experience as they had hoped. Almost all of the fun turned out to be in the app, leaving parents wondering why they had shell out for a box of bricks. By November, that set had been discontinued.

Five years ago, Lego would never have considered a pilot product like Fusion, says Gram. There would have been too many concerns that a poor product could tarnish the brand’s reputation for quality. (An example of how thoroughly quality is controlled: each brick is coded with a small number so that if a faulty one left the plant, Lego could trace it back to the machine that made it, one of thousands the company has around the world. , to determine what went wrong).

Some within the company still bear scars from expensive learning experiences, including Lego Universe, a failed World of Warcraft clone that was discontinued in 2012, just over a year after its introduction. But that’s also one of the reasons for creating a division like Future Lab, which lives within a metaphorical walled garden, where mistakes can be made relatively cheaply and a lot can be learned. “It has led us to some extremely interesting concepts, even though 90% or more have never been released,” says Knudstorp. “But when you do an exploration like this, you get a lot smarter about everything from different business models to ways to develop a meaningful gaming experience. And you get wiser about the things you actually throw. ”

“The team spirit that we have? They will talk about this trip all year long, “says Søren Holm , Head of Future Lab. Photo: Nikolaj Møller

Back in Spain, the geniuses of Future Lab divided into eight teams for the hackathon.Most of the group is Danish and American, Lego’s official working language is English, but employees also come from Chile, India, the UK, Thailand and elsewhere. Most are young, at least a little nerdy, with an advanced degree in design, technology, or business management. Holm, who joined Lego in his twenties as a model builder with no real work experience (and later created some of the company’s biggest hits, including the early 2000s craze Bionicle), admits that he probably didn’t. I’d be qualified for a design job at Future Lab now. “The technical requirements have changed a lot,” he says. “There is not so much room for what we call in Danish ole opfinder.” She searches for the word in English and sounds a bit melancholic when she finds it.

At your disposal are containers of Lego bricks, laptops loaded with animation software, arts and crafts supplies for preschoolers, professional quality digital cameras , and for power , endless plates of jelly beans and other sugary snacks. (A real treat, because sugar is banned on the Lego campus, except in the cafe.) An inspiration wall features long shelves loaded with new devices and competing products, including Oculus Rift, VR gear, and a tablet accessory they admire so much they ask not to be mentioned. “It’s a small startup and things would go crazy for them,” says Gram.

When teams present their ideas to leadership the next day, they are noticeably polished. They range from cooler Fusion-ish toys to the Internet of Things – Style Experiences – and one couple feel they could go straight to development. What they might as well have now, joining at least four projects that are currently working their way through various parts of the Future Lab system.

In February, Future Lab will launch a second product: Portal Racers, a free all-digital game with a hovercraft theme, designed to work with Intel’s new 3-D laptop camera called RealSense (which the processor giant just released. began to be implemented in new computers). The camera, which can track users’ body movements, enables new ways to interact with the Kinect with a computer, which the game takes advantage of. The original idea was for kids to build their own hovercraft out of bricks and scan them in-game, Fusion-style, but unless Portal Racers turns out to be a big hit, Gram says it will remain a digital-only experience. And while it certainly looks fun in the video they have of kids trying it out, it will be a much more modest release than Fusion. It seems like it’s as much about Future Lab understanding a new technology as it is about creating an amazing game for kids.

Which will be increasingly valuable information. During one of the final presentations in Palamós, a young designer mentions that no matter how well Lego sets are selling, his research shows that children are spending less and less time playing with them each year, that other pleasures are driving them away. Gram is sure that’s a message from Future Lab that the rest of the company has heard loud and clear: experimentation “is something we can’t afford not to do.”

Bricks, bots and beyond

A guide to Lego’s most important experimental projects.

“It’s a classic approach to skunk jobs,” says Lego CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp of Future Lab and its predecessor groups, who have been tasked with developing entirely new play experiences (which often end up hitting the market in controlled tests). “It’s a small area of ​​the company that operates a little outside the rules,” he says, but offers vital information.

  1. Lego Mindstorms

Released: 1998 (Worldwide)

Lego’s robotics platform, created with the MIT Media Lab , gave the Future Lab some of its key DNA. It was the company’s first hybrid digital physical experience, and it was the first time adult fans entered the design process. (Lego found that its toughest users knew more about toy programming than they did.)

  1. Lego architecture

Released: 2007 (Chicago); 2009 (worldwide)

Now a global hit helping fans build models of nearly 20 buildings, Lego Architecture started in the most popular way possible: Lego employees, without management approval, provided bricks to an architect in Chicago, and created replicas. Sears and Hancock Towers: Hundreds of them.

  1. Lego ideas

Launched: 2008 (Japan); 2011 (Worldwide)

Fans vote on new-kit ideas submitted by amateur designers. Anything with more than 10,000 votes goes to a review phase, and Lego decides which get made. So far, the process has created more than 10 limited- availability kits, including a model lab staffed by female scientists and the Big Bang Theory apartment.

  1. Lego Games

Launched: 2009 (England and Germany); 2010 (Worldwide)

The line began with 20 board games, including Lava Dragon and Pirate Code, and combined traditional game play with Lego bricks. Future Lab’s Ditte Bruun Pedersen came up with the idea of ​​Lego Dice, which snap together and can be configured in different ways depending on the game. The line was discontinued in 2013.

  1. Life of George

Launched: 2011 (US); 2012 (Worldwide)

The puzzle game, targeted at families, combines a special set of bricks with a smartphone app. Part of the experience involves importing shapes built with the bricks into the app via the phone’s camera. It marked a breakthrough for the company in blending physical and digital play, which has become the Future Lab’s primary focus.

  1. Fusion

Launched: 2013 (US Toys “R” Us and Lego Stores)

An evolution of Life of George, Fusion’s three kits (Town Master, Battle Towers, and Resort Designer) provide a similar interactive experience: users build something with the included bricks and scan it with a camera into a tablet game. Future Lab is stud studying how kids play with the toy to try to improve the experience.


by Abdullah Sam
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