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Hot Wheels' AR app is a poor excuse for AR technology
The Hot Wheels line of toy cars seems like it would be an ideal candidate for augmented reality. Just take your phone and build the virtual track in your living room without the constraints of budget and physics of real-world plastic tracks and toy cars.
The augmented reality Hot Wheels Track Builder Tango app that the company announced at this year's Toy Fair unfortunately doesn't quite live up to the dream of a virtual Hot Wheels masterpiece. The app lets you build your own Hot Wheels tracks in a digital playroom, which you can physically move around in by moving around in the real world through Google's Tango technology.
Unfortunately, the app only works with a Google Tango-equipped device, of which there are only two currently announced. And while you can build a digital track, Tango's room mapping technology isn't used to re-create your own living room in the Track Builder app, but rather to allow you to walk around in real life to pan around the completely digital environment in the app. It's less an augmented reality Hot Wheels track, and more of a worse way to pan around a 3D game by requiring you to physically move around, that also restricts the app to a handful of devices.
Other than the Tango integration, Hot Wheels Track Builder Tango is a fairly standard game. It's free-to-play with optional in-app purchases, and players unlock additional components to build with by completing challenges.
Hot Wheels Track Builder Tango is available now for Google Tango devices on the Play Store.