4 Augmented Reality Toys

Toys are providing a glimpse at new ways to interact with tech

Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.

The Rundown

Most well-rounded: Sphero at Amazon

"Similar to a remote-controlled car, but the ball can be controlled using a mobile app that is available on iOS and Android."

Best for Builders: Lego at Amazon

"Lego had some of the first augmented reality offerings to go to market."

Best for Kids: Disney Dream Play at Amazon

"Disney is one of the latest companies to announce that it will be producing augmented reality products."

Best for Kids at Heart: Sony Wonderbook at Amazon

"The Wonderbook has guaranteed some sales by securing the rights to a Harry Potter game."

The idea of augmented reality (AR) is something out of a fantasy or science fiction novel. Technology that jumps out of an impersonal computer or device and into the real world, essentially "coming alive." It's little wonder then that recently one of the biggest applications of augmented reality has been in toys, which can capture the imagination of kids in a powerful way.

But these toys may also provide some subtle hints as to what may become a more common way of interacting with technology, out in the real world, rather than trapped on a device. For those interested in the possible uses of augmented reality, here are the best toys that are worth playing with.

Our Top Picks

01
of 04

Most well-rounded: Sphero

Sphero!

Derek Hatfield / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Sphero is a robotic ball that uses a gyroscopic engine to propel itself across the floor. It's similar to a remote-controlled car, but the ball can be controlled using a mobile app that is available on iOS and Android. Orbotix, the company that created Sphero actually took a similar path to many traditional tech startups, graduating from startup accelerator TechStars, and then securing $5 million in funding from Foundry Group and other venture partners. While Sphero seems a cool enough idea on its own, they've recently added to the product's features by incorporating an augmented reality component, making Sphero one of the first products to include a moving augmented reality marker, opposed to most toys which use a stationary printed marker.

02
of 04

Best for Builders: Lego

Augmented Reality Brings 3-D to Retail

Intel Free Press / Flickr / Attribution 2.0 Generic

Lego is a classic toy that has been capturing the "builder" sensibilities of many kids for decades. The company has been aggressively expanding into technological innovations such as augmented reality, undoubtedly sensing competition from other high-tech diversions. As a result, Lego had some of the first augmented reality offerings to go to market. The company offered a "digital box" with a printed AR marker that allowed customers to visualize the finished product on the box using a mobile app, or a video kiosk. Lego also created mobile games, in which players compete to assemble Lego builds, thus creating an interactive element to the long-standing pastime of playing with Legos.

03
of 04

Best for Kids: Disney Dream Play

Disney Dream Play

Kidscreen

Sensing a shift towards the use of augmented reality in toys, Disney is one of the latest companies to announce that it will be producing augmented reality products using beloved Disney properties. Though the product has not yet been released, the toys, currently called Disney Dream Play, will feature Disney characters coming to life using stationary AR tags and a tablet and mobile device app. The Disney announcement lends even further legitimacy to the idea that Augmented reality will be a profitable area for toymakers.

04
of 04

Best for Kids at Heart: Sony Wonderbook

Sony Wonderbook

Youtube / Katya Starshova

The Sony Wonderbook is the gaming giant's first standalone foray into augmented reality, and it is sold as an add-on to the popular PlayStation 3 and motion-sensing controller, PlayStation Move. The Wonderbook has guaranteed some sales by securing the rights to a Harry Potter game, and the first release is a Harry Potter spellbook in which the pages come to life on your television using stationary AR tags. The Wonderbook will continue with other products that bring augmented reality to the PS3.