Three companies are teaming up to design DreamPlay, an app that makes ordinary objects seem magical. DreamPlay uses camera images and adds animations that include Disney characters and other effects.
LOS ANGELES – Walt Disney toys are sold around the world. Now, children can find them in the cloud as well.
The media giant is teaming up with toy company JAKKS Pacific and Patrick Soon-Shiong, Los Angeles' wealthiest person, on a new line of toys – with a nifty technological twist designed to link the goodies that kids lug home from the store with Disney's staple of well-known animated characters.
DreamPlay, developed by Soon-Shiong's NantWorks company and JAKKS, works via an app that can be downloaded on Apple devices like the iPad, or smartphones and tablets running Google Android software. When a device's camera is trained on any toy specifically designed to work with DreamPlay, it triggers one of thousands of preset animations that appear on the device's screen and seem to be unfolding in the real world.
With viewers' eyes locked on the tablet or smartphone screen, fairies appear to glide in and out of buildings, animated critters start playing musical instruments, mythical characters prance on a toy piano's keyboard.
Disney, which licensed its characters to DreamPlay, and its partners hope that children will take to the new approach, which is intended to extend and expand the life of the toy. But it remains to be seen if the concept will prove to be more than a novelty, and be able to arrest a child's short attention span.
DreamPlay allows a host of well-loved Disney characters to "interact" virtually with specially made toys via image-recognition software. The software was developed by Soon-Shiong, a former cancer surgeon who created drugs to fight diabetes and breast cancer and then sold the companies that produced them for $8.6 billion.
Soon-Shiong teamed with JAKKS, a $678 million-a-year toy maker and licensee of toys based on the Princess line of dolls, Marvel action figures and other Disney toys, among others.
The technology works via the "cloud" – images and video clips stored on remote servers that are streamed to kids' mobiles when the app recognizes a particular item.
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