Toys are about to change for the iGeneration, with a new gadget from Disney, linking together an iPad, an app, and whatever imagination your children can muster.
Released late last year, AppMates is a new kind of toy, and one that may be considered a little too expensive for most parents. While most toys just require imagination, the AppMates require an iPad to function, relying on Apple’s tablet for an app that brings the toys to life.
Reminding us of Micro Machines, an AppMate is a tiny toy with sensors on the bottom designed to interact with specially made apps. This app essentially turns an iPad into an interactive playmat, allowing the toy to interact with an ever-changing video game based world.
Made in conjunction with Disney’s “Cars 2” film, the AppMates take on the look of characters from the franchise. For our test, we took Mater and Finn McMissile for a spin, sitting them on our iPad and loading up the free app available from the AppStore.
Depending on which character you place on the iPad, the car springs to life, switching on the headlights and speaking up with the movie voice. For Mater, this brought the world of Radiator Springs to to life, flickering his headlights, switching on his top tow truck light, and then being given the freedom to drive around for fun or play games with other characters.
Controlling the cars is fairly simple: just hold the car by the windows, basically pinching the cars behind their eyes. This needs to be done for the AppMates to function, as letting go will see the cars stop working altogether.
From there, you just twist and turn the car in any direction while it automatically accelerates, with the character changing where it drives as soon as you do so. It almost gives off the feeling that you’re playing a family-friendly version of the top-down classic “Grand Theft Auto”, although with much less violence.
Not all aspects of it are easy to use, however, as turning in various directions can be difficult to do in one action. As such, kids may have a hard time keeping to the paths, especially since adults – like this one – had problems.
From what we played, children will probably have the most fun driving around the environment, the app interacting with their favourite characters and settings from the movie. Playing the games seems to take more time and usually requires you to stop just in front of in-game cars, something that can prove more difficult than you would expect.
While kids may have fun with the toys, we’d advise parents to watch the kids carefully as well as coat their iPad screens in protection film.
In testing one of our own iPads with AppMates, we found a small scratch staring back at us when playtime was over, something that we wouldn’t want passed on to another device, least of all yours.
AppMates are available in Apple stores now and cost roughly $30. If you don’t mind letting your kids take control of your iPad for a while, it’s certainly a fun little toy to try out, even if it does have a few quirks.