Introducing the first interactive 3D Digital Building Instructions for Technic
For the first time ever, you can now download a free, interactive LEGO Digital Building Instructions app for a Technic model. It’s an early version, but we’re very excited!
Why make Digital Building Instructions? And what can we expect? We asked Marketing Lead Niels Henrik and Building Instructions Specialist Torben how the new LEGO Building Instructions app came to life, and what it does.
It’s important for us that we produce high quality physical building instructions, which we do now, and will continue to do. But we also wanted to explore if and how we could utilize smart devices/tablets to enhance the building experience. We started looking into what characterizes the physical building of LEGO Technic:
1. You build in 3 dimensions
2. You build a lot of functionalities
3. You can build for a long time without knowing where/what you are building in relation to the final model.
How could we accommodate for that into the Digital Building Instructions?
It’s nice to keep track of how far you’ve come in the building process, and we thought, wouldn’t it be great if you could watch demos of and check critical functionality steps as you’re building, instead of finding out when you’re done that you have two extra pieces left over and the wheels don’t turn? (We’ve all done it, trust us.)
In addition to making the building experience more fun, we also know that people sometimes lose the physical building instructions that come in the box, and it should be fast and simple to find a replacement. It just makes sense to create both an interactive version you can find online, and a mobile version for tablets.
Right now, the only way you can find building instructions in a digital environment is as PDF documents you can download from our website. Most people only do that if they lose the instructions that came with the box.
Where to start?
First we turned to our friends down the hall in the Mindstorms team for inspiration. They work with our internal 3D artists and external developers to create a building concept that suits their platform really well. We summoned our building instructions experts, visited the developer, discussed our options with the 3D department, and got as many experts as possible involved at a very early stage in the idea phase.
Our absolute minimum requirement was that the digital building instructions experience should match the high quality and standards of our physical building instructions. Most importantly, all elements should be easy to recognize. Color scheme, element overview, 1:1 scale images, etc. had to be included, and the instructions should only use icons to avoid a language barrier for non-English speaking builders.
With lots of input in the inspiration bank, we created a “wish list” and soon realized that the Mindstorms concept, although great for Mindstorms, would require a lot of changes to fit our needs. We wanted to create a basic template that would work not only for Technic building instructions, but something that would potentially also work for all future LEGO models.
Development and testing
When we had an app prototype we felt comfortable showing to prospective builders, we tested it on live children (none of whom were harmed in the process). Most of the boys in the test groups had some experience building Technic, so we wanted to find out if the digital building experience lived up to their expectations, and/or made a difference to the final model, compared to the print version.
We discovered that, although most boys in the groups who used the digital instructions took a little longer to build the model, the end result, the final model, had fewer errors. That was one of our most important first insights.
Other factors we had to consider were color representation and software updates. In the print versions, we can control the visual quality but with the digital version, builders may have to adjust their light settings. Different versions of operating systems, browser versions, etc. could also affect how colors are shown.
We have never created anything like this before at LEGO, so we narrowed the app down to include building instructions for one model, the 42022
, with instructions for both an A and a B model. This way we were able to get as many features as possible from our “wish list” built into the first version:
- 3D Animation and playback options for all building steps
- 1:1 scale element details where necessary
- Built-in app tutorial
- Element overview for each step
- Full overview of exactly which part of the final model you’re building right now
- We have an online version on the website
- For now, the app is optimized for iPad, iPad Mini, and a couple of different Android devices
We haven’t optimized the app for smart phones. In order to fit the 1:1 scale element images, the smallest platform we can use right now is the iPad Mini.
We, and all the rest of the team involved in the making of the app, hope to get feedback from as many builders as possible. Tell us what you think! Maybe your idea is already on our to-do list, and if not, it may just be brilliant enough to make our list. We have only just opened the door to almost infinite possibilities with this 3D app. We can’t wait to explore our options and ideas over the next years.
Happy Holidays from the Technic Team.
The 3D Digital Building Instructions app for the LEGO® Technic Hot Rod (42022)