SwapBots, the augmented reality toy and game, is bringing the toy industry back to Liverpool, the birthplace of Meccano.

Over 100 years ago Frank Hornby invented Meccano, the original toy that combined technology with play. Later he went on to invent Hornby Model Railways and Dinky Toys, manufacturing in Liverpool from the birth of the companies until 1979. Some years later there’s a new company making waves. Just off Hardman Street, there’s narrow corridor of nothingness that doesn’t look like anything special. But, how often we’ve found that down these unassuming roads we come across the most special of spaces. It’s home to Buyers Club, Wild Loaf and Draw & Code; a small company doing big things with their idea called SwapBots.

SwapBots is a toy that is brought to life using the magic of augmented reality. The team behind this new concept are delighted to be combining the latest innovations in video games with physical, tactile play – and to be designing the toy and running the business from their Liverpool base. SwapBots are collectible toys that use augmented reality to create a spectacular, interactive video game world around a physical toy. By swapping pieces of the SwapBots, the player can influence in-game attributes. The player simply points their phone or tablet at the SwapBot toy to see it come to life as the digital animation is overlaid onto it.

To play SwapBots all you need is a tablet or smartphone and the toy – there are no expensive hardware interfaces while the free accompanying app eschews in-app purchases and ads. The player simply points the camera at the Bot to see it come to life. Every toy can be configured differently using the swappable components, each of which features its own attributes and affects gameplay. This makes the physical interactions with the toy just as important as what happens on the screen.

The team behind SwapBots includes technologists who have been working with immersive technologies in Liverpool’s creative community for years as the work-for-hire studio Draw & Code. Now some of the team are parents and this has given them impetus to use this new form of interaction in a product aimed at children. Phil Charnock adds, “Augmented reality has the power to turn any surface into an interactive and animated one, making it ideal to form the basis of a truly tactile and compelling toy and game that bridges the physical and digital divide.”

After revealing the toy in 2016 to impressed industry insiders, the public just recently helped them hit their crowdfunding target and the future looks incredibly exciting for the guys behind it. Pre-order yours here.