Mattel is introducing Hot Wheels id, which lets kids race their NFC-enabled Hot Wheels on its Smart Track, and scan their collections into a free iOS app. In the app, which acts as a virtual garage, kids can track speed and laps via infrared sensors in the Hot Wheels Race Portal, which scans in your cars and connects to classic Hot Wheels tracks. It sounds great for kids who are into obsessively tracking details, and using cold, hard, data to back up claims on whose car is faster.
Companies have tried to find ways to keep classic brands alive by bolting on digital components, but sometimes in ways that felt too forced. Anki Drive, another toy that launched as an Apple exclusive, was a smartphone-controlled racing game with a similar focus on stats, but the company ultimately folded, having never really found an audience, and Hot Wheels itself has toyed around (sorry) with incorporating technology into its classic lineup of race cars, from a disappointing augmented reality game that only worked on certain devices, to remote-controlled cars.
But robotics companies like Anki and Sphero have opened up an interest for toys that mix the physical and digital, and it feels like traditional toy companies are now finding their footing. Hot Wheels id at least keeps the aspect of physical play alive, and supplements that experience with virtual challenges and mini-games.
For kids who already own Hot Wheels tracks, they can just use a phone or the Race Portal to scan in the new id cars, which have NFC chips on the bottom to store the car’s performance data. According to Engadget, that means the app isn’t strictly necessary, and kids won’t have to borrow mom’s phone every time they want to play since data can transfer over later. The advantage of getting the Smart Track Kit would be the included booster for launching the cars, which Hot Wheels calls its fastest and most powerful ever, and being able to track distance and speed with the Smart Track’s 16 USB-connected pieces.
The set is available exclusively at Apple.com and Apple stores, and an Android version of the app will be available on Google Play on July 10th. Individual Hot Wheel id vehicles cost $6.99, while the Race Portal, which includes two id cars, is $39.99. The Smart Track Kit, which comes with two id cars, the Smart Portal and 16 track pieces, costs $179.99.