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from the L.A. Times

Lego Stores use visual magic to drive sales

Lego Group has assembled a bit of technological wizardry to drive foot traffic into its stores.

Customers can pull a Lego package off the shelf, hold it in front of the Digital Box kiosk and see an animation on the screen of the completed Lego project overlaid on the box in their hands. A camera interfaces with the screen to pull off the augmented reality trick.

If we'd had this when we were 8 years old, our minds would have exploded.

After a trial last year at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., the Danish toy manufacturer is setting up augmented reality stations in its more than 50 shops worldwide. The stores at Disneyland in Anaheim and in the Glendale Galleria have seen numerous shoppers excitedly interact with their Digital Boxes, employees say.

Lego Group has been smart about keeping its brand relevant among kids, as potential distractions have increased substantially since the Lego building blocks hit the market more than 60 years ago.

The company has attached the Lego brand to a variety of popular, critically acclaimed video games based on the "Star Wars," "Indiana Jones" and "Batman" franchises. There's also an iPhone app called Lego Photo for making digital pictures colorful and blocky.

Lego Stores that participated in the trial of the video stations saw sales and revenue increase, according to Metaio, the San Francisco company that supplied the augmented reality technology.

The Digital Box seems to be an effective way of using high-tech gizmos to wow mall shoppers into buying a thoroughly low-tech construction kit.

-- Mark Milian

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