When I was eight years old, model planes and comic books ate an enormous amount of my income. I was deeply into airplanes and superheroes. But always there, glittering in the distance and calling to me, were slot cars.
I loved slot cars. They were cool looking, fast, and invited tinkering to get every last ounce of speed out of them. Particularly that ounce that might help me beat my older brother at something. But while comic books could be had for a dime or a quarter, slot-car sets were a mind-boggling $25 or more. That put them well out of reach for a kid whose spending money was generated by gathering discarded bottles from the roadside.
So slot cars were for me, an unrealized dream.
Enter Anki, a company that just launched Overdrive, which is slot cars on steroids. The product remakes slot cars into something cool—real and virtual at the same time—that reinvents how kids play with toys.
You can see a video at www.anki.com, but let me describe the product to you. The cars are real, but they aren’t just the car you hold in your hand. Each has a software component: invisible weapons and shields that allow you to not just race your opponents, but battle them, too.
You use a smartphone to control your car. After creating a custom track by connecting curves and straights and jumps, you tell the cars to “scan” the track. They run around it twice and build a virtual model of it on your phone. Then you race, but like slot cars, you don’t have to control the cars in every curve. Instead, you control the throttle, lane placement, and the weapons and defenses. There’s a single-player campaign and head-to-head competition. If you have kids, this is a must-buy for the holidays.
Why am I wasting your time with this on a digital blog? Simple. This is a four-star example of what I call an Alloy Solution. It’s many technologies brought together to solve a problem or create an experience. A short list of the technologies involved with Overdrive includes:
- Smartphones (BYOD)
- Short-throw communications technology (Bluetooth)
- AI for computer opponents
- Robots (the cars themselves)
- Machine learning (see above for how they scan the track so they can drive it with minimal user input)
- Internet of Things (cars, controlling smartphones, etc.)
- Gamification learning (voiceovers, challenges, etc.)
Again, this is not an all-encompassing list, but it illustrates an extremely interesting point for digital business going forward. When innovating, streamlining, and reducing friction for your end-users’ experience, make sure you’ve looked at the alloys you can create using multiple technologies that work together.
I’ll see you on the track.