Lego and Amazon just announced that they will be partnering on a wild new project dubbed “Lego Duplo Stories” that will integrate small plastic blocks and Amazon’s interactive virtual assistant Alexa. According to a statement from Lego, the program, which has already launched in the US and UK, is among the first to use interactive technology to inspire physical play. The idea is for Alexa to tell stories that kids can act out or, in a sense, render in reality. It’s basically a step up from the “Skills” that Alexa has offered for a long time.
The program feels especially well timed for Lego, which is looking for ways to compete with or build on technologies. In 2017, the Danish company saw reduced profits for the first time in 15 years. That was likely a minor blip — it remains one of the most beloved brands on Earth — but it likely represented a reason to think outside of traditional programs and offerings. Amazon, for its part, has been trying to figure out ways to help its interactive personal assistant more useful for children. The advantage of working with Lego is that children already love Lego.
The program should interest parents because it likely points to what’s coming. Experts estimate that Alexa tech could be worth $10 billion by 2020 and it’s increasingly ubiquitous. Does that mean that an artificial intelligence program is going to be raising kids and playing with them? It’s obviously not that simple, but, yeah, perhaps. That said, it will be a while before Rosie from The Jetsons is building Millenium Falcons with America’s tots.
Here’s what we know about the Amazon-Lego partnership right now:
- The stories will primarily be aimed at children between the ages of four and six-years-old. According to James Poulter, Lego’s head of Emerging Platforms & Partnerships, “Children don’t differentiate between physical and digital play,” and the new program hopes to help kids “augment and extend their play experience.”
- The first two stories will be called The Plane Story, which follows an aircraft as it goes on vacation and The Rabbit Story which is about a rabbit meeting a new family of pets.
- According to Lego’s statement, the stories are meant to stimulate kids’ development by advancing “children’s constructive, exploratory and roleplay skills with tasks ranging from numeric exercises to color recognition, articulation practice and creative building challenges.”
- This isn’t Lego’s first attempt at fusing physical play and education. This year they partnered with Unilever and IKEA to recreate the Anker-Steinbaukasten (anchor stone) blocks that Albert Einstein played with as a child. The goal was to create a toy that could stimulate a child’s early understanding of complex 3D structures.