Lego Unites AR, Physical Play and Ghost Hunting With New Hidden Side Line

(Image credit: Lego)

Remember the days when Lego only made low-tech toy blocks? The company’s been getting into augmented reality in a big way. In December, it released Lego Playgrounds, an app which projects a Ninjago fighters on top of your builds. And Today, Lego announced it’s taking things further with Lego Hidden Side, a line of playsets about a haunted town where you must help two child protagonists catch ghosts that are only visible in the mobile app.

Lego tapped the Vuforia AR platform and developed its own color sensor technology internally for the line. It also plans on continuously updating the mobile app—compatible with Android phones on the ARCore supported list and iPhone 6S and up, as well as tablets (though Lego encourages phones for one-handed use)—with new ghosts and games, such as Halloween contests. YouTube and video content is also in the works, Lego told us, so it seems like Hidden Side is a long-term play for the Danish company.

The Lego Hidden Side toy line follows figurines/teens Jake and Parker, two bloggers who met via YouTube and attend Newbury High School. Unfortunately, the town's haunted. So naturally the students go to work ridding the school and surrounding area of its demons using a mobile app developed by one of their professors.

Kids join the search via their own mobile app that opens the phone camera, which kids point at their playset and allows them to spot any spectres stalking the school in AR form. The app will also prompt kids to take physical action, like opening a door or rotating a gravestone to its pink side, for example, in order to reveal where ghosts are lurking. All that’s left then is capturing the virtual ghosts and storing them for ‘research’ in the mobile app.

Looking over a Lego rep's shoulder as he operated a beta version of the app, we got the chance to help Jake (Parker was busy) track down some ghosts in the graveyard playset. The app prompted us to search in various places, like by a tree, or in a gravestone by opening its Lego lid or the various colors of a gravestone by spinning it around. AR either told us that the area was safe or revealed a spirit to capture. At one point, the app suspected Jake might be possessed, so we examined him with the phone too. Thankfully, Jake was still himself.

(Image credit: Tom's Hardware)

Helping to promote continued interest in the game, the app will store ghost profiles in the app, showcasing things like their rarity and personality. Capturing the same ghost repeatedly also helps with Newbury’s poltergeist research, giving kids reason to keep on hunting. At launch, there will be 100 ghosts, Lego said.

There are 8 sets in total to complete the school, but kids don’t need all the sets to play. In fact, the app has a mode for playing without a set at all. In the game you run around a virtual campus, looking for ghosts. The sets and apps have a look and feel that reminded us of old-fashioned kids' mystery series like Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. 

Upon the line’s launch, there will be eight different playsets available to create Newbury High’s entire campus, which has some interesting features:

  • School (pictured above, 1,474 pieces): $129.99
  • Train (698 pieces): $89.99
  • Bus (689 pieces): $59.99
  • Diner (579 pieces): $49.99
  • Truck (428 pieces): $39.99 (
  • Graveyard (335 pieces): $29.99
  • Boat (310 pieces): $29.99
  • Lab (174 pieces): $19.99

Lego Hidden Side is for children ages 7 and up.

Scharon Harding

Scharon Harding has a special affinity for gaming peripherals (especially monitors), laptops and virtual reality. Previously, she covered business technology, including hardware, software, cyber security, cloud and other IT happenings, at Channelnomics, with bylines at CRN UK.