Lego’s take on TikTok is as fascinating as it is limited. 

On March 1, Lego VIDIYO will start appearing on app stores and store shelves in a bid to combine the world’s most famous plastic bricks with the fun of creating and safely sharing music videos from home.

It sounds simple but the pitch gets a little complicated to explain (or write about) compared to good ol’ fashioned Lego. 

On top of buying a set, you have to build the character, scan them into the app to unlock them as a bandmate, then create a Lego account to share the videos you make to earn points that unlock costumes and more.  

You can download the Lego VIDIYO app and get started for free, but you can’t unlock its full potential without buying the physical sets.   

There are six “beatbox” starter kits to collect that fuse colourful characters with music genres. 

Party Llama is all about Latin music, K-Pop tracks are hiding within Unicorn DJ and ETDM is Lego’s extraterrestrial take on electronic dance music. 

There are a variety of new Lego blocks that are part of the concept.
There are a variety of new Lego blocks that are part of the concept. (Mark Santomartino)

Scanning one of these six figures both allows you to use a virtual version of the character in your music videos and unlocks a selection of songs in their respective genres. If you, like me, love the look of Party Llama but aren’t the biggest fan of latin music, you’ll be rewarded with a selection of songs you might not recognise let alone like.     

There are just 30 songs at launch which pales in comparison to the near-unlimited selection you can find on TikTok and Instagram. Big names like Taylor Swift and The Weeknd are among the selection and Lego’s promising to add new music every week in partnership with Universal Music. 

Lego VIDIYO wouldn’t exist without this partnership but it also means hits from artists signed to other labels will likely never see the light of day.  

In addition to characters and music, the starter kits – as well as the mystery bandmate packs – come with a number of critical new bricks called “beat bits”.

There are more than 130 beat bits and each unlocks different effects to use in your videos. 

Unlike the characters which only have to be scanned once, beat bits have to be scanned at the start of every video. You can stack up to 12 on either side of your starter kit which you can then activate at any time with a tap. 

Beat bits can send cats flying across the screen, add X-ray and underwater filters or trigger dance moves that can send your bandmates floating into the sky.   

There’s nothing to explain what each beat bit does or how they’ll work in combination with one another, and much of the fun comes from trial and error. 

The app is bright and colourful.
The app is bright and colourful. (Mark Santomartino)
The music theme runs throughout the concept.
The music theme runs throughout the concept. (Mark Santomartino)

There’s plenty to do in the VIDIYO app (even in early access) but the meat on this bone is recording and sharing video. 

Unfortunately, the process isn’t as simple as choosing your song and hitting record. 

You have to register each character separately before they can be used and if you swap out their head or legs, the scan won’t recognise them. 

You then have to create a band, select your band, scan your beat bits and select your ‘stage’. VIDIYO is an augmented reality (AR) experience, so the background in videos is the world around you.

The app uses your camera to search for a flat surface but has some problems with shiny, reflective or glass surfaces, which can leave your bandmates floating in midair. However, that’s not nearly as big a hurdle to the fun as needing to scan a character surrounded by beat bits before every video. 

There are many collectables involved, like most Lego.
There are many collectables involved, like most Lego. (Mark Santomartino)
The app links up with your phone to display the content.
The app links up with your phone to display the content. (Mark Santomartino)

You literally can’t record a video without access to the physical bricks. There’s no option to virtually select the best bits you’ve previously scanned from a list either, so you’ll have to rearrange them in the real world every time. Building and rebuilding is part of the fun with Lego but in this instance, it’s an unnecessary barrier to it. 

Once you’re scanned and set up, the music starts and you have 60 seconds to ‘perform’. Infinitely more creative minds than mine have already directed some wonderfully inventive clips using the tools provided by Lego combined with handcrafted sets and editing. You can still have fun with the basics as I did, but there’s a wealth of depth for players who want it. 

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Each video is automatically saved to your gallery, but you can only share 5, 10 or 20 second clips. Every video is watched and approved by Lego’s team before being shared online which can take up to 15 minutes. A delay Lego is happy to wear to deliver on its promise of a safe social network for kids. 

Videos can’t be named but can be tagged with prewritten phrases like “My Favourite Band” and “Wow”.

Once approved, videos appear on one of two tabs on the app’s home page: ‘for you’ and ‘discover’. The latter has some basic search functions based on those prewritten tags but is generally pretty limited.  

If you’re lacking inspiration, there are a number of daily activities to complete to earn ‘beat coins’. Beat coins can be spent in the app on cosmetics like new hairstyles, clothing, poses for those in your band, which you can then use in videos or take photos that can be used to create and share album covers. 

No real money can be spent to gather beat coins and there are no microtransactions in the app. 

Lego VIDIYO aims to be greater than the sum of its parts. The problem is those parts get in the way of each other.

On their own, the individual $25.99 ‘beat boxes’ are basic – and somewhat boring – builds.

Their value is explicitly tied to the app which, at launch, doesn’t offer enough for those who don’t heavily invest.   

Accessing all 30 songs requires all six ‘beat boxes’ which together cost $155.94. 

That being said, Lego has created something special.

Kids aged 7-10 who can navigate the hurdles required before hitting the record button will undoubtedly have fun, but the app must be streamlined and offer more for free over time if it’s to unlock its own potential. 

This content first appear on 9news

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