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Lego reveals hidden side

The classic brick-building universe enters a new realm tomorrow, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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It’s one of the best-hyped secrets in the gaming universe, but tomorrow all will be revealed. That’s when Lego’s iconic plastic bricks enter the world of augmented reality, unlocking hidden levels of gameplay.

A new Lego series called Hidden Side, comprising scenes, scenarios and characters inhabiting a haunted world, is already in stores. However, the packaging introduces a concept that previously relied entirely on the imagination.

“See your set come alive,” every Hidden Side box proclaims, with an image of Lego characters and scenes viewed through a smartphone. The idea is that one downloads the Hidden Side app onto a handset and, when focused on specific elements of a completed set, one can view and follow adventures that are impossible in the physical world. The only clue given by Lego is that “kids must turn a haunted world back to normal, one ghost at a time”.

The Lego Group unveiled the Hidden Side play theme during the American International Toy Fair in New York in February, and has kept the world waiting almost six months for the full reveal.

“Our years of experience pioneering the convergence of technology and physical play have taught us that kids expect exciting play experiences that move seamlessly between physical and digital worlds – something we call fluid play,” says Tom Donaldson, senior vice president of the Creative Play Lab at the Lego Group.

“At our core, we focus on tactile building, but AR presents opportunities to enhance physical Lego play with new action and mastery elements. We’re breaking the mould of gaming-first AR play experiences to create a new type of play where the physical world actually influences the AR layer, instead of the other way around.” 

We tried our hand at building two of the Lego sets to get a sense of how much fun they offer before the app is activated. JB’s Ghost Lab and El Fuego’s Stunt Truck seemed to offer two very different experiences.

The build is relatively straightforward but fun, with fresh Lego experiences. For example, all characters have two faces, typically a smiley face on the front and fierce expression on the back, depending on the mode in which they are being played. The green tint on some of the characters represents a new shade of Lego brick.

In JB’s Ghost Lab, a gadget that is growing in popularity makes its first appearance in the Lego universe: a toy 3D printer. The set already comes with the printer’s first apparent output, a mystery object that will probably have its role revealed via the app.

The scenes include incredibly fine detail in the artwork on the characters and sets, down to screwdrivers and spanners in belts, and Post-It notes on a wall. Spencer the ghost dog has translucent elements on his body, making him the cutest supernatural creature in the Lego world.

El Fuego’s Stunt Truck also includes delightful detail, right down to a band-aid on EL Fuego’s face and parts that move in unexpected ways. The truck does a duet in building and play with an easy-rider style motorbike, with its own level of fine detail. Oh, and it includes Spencer the ghost dog. Because you can never have too many ghost dogs.

Click here to read more about how the AR app works.

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Showmax launches half-price mobile streaming service

A new streaming product designed specifically for Africa, featuring TV series as well as African content and live sport, is aimed at filling the gap in subscription video on demand services

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The subscription video on demand (SVoD) model, which originated in the USA, spread rapidly in countries where uncapped broadband is affordable and widely available. However, because the model also relies on consumers being comfortable with transacting online and having ready access to credit cards, it has barely scratched the surface across Africa.

On top of that, smartphones are often the only only form of Internet access across Africa, and none of the popular SVoD services have been designed for the format.

Showmax says it plans to change this with the launch of a new mobile plan that costs 50% of the standard Showmax package but still features 100% of the same video content. Showmax is set apart by a combination of four pillars: hit African content, exclusive international series, topkids’ shows, and live sport, including weekly matches from the English Premier League, Italy’s Serie A, and Spain’s La Liga.

Showmax says the new plan is aimed at consumers who only use smartphones and tablets to watch video content. Video resolution peaks at standard definition to help reduce data consumption. As it is a product aimed at individuals, only one concurrent stream is included in the plan. As with the regular service, it is also available for a 14-day free trial.

“This is all about an African service developing a solution that meets the needs of African consumers,” saus Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of the Connected Video division of MultiChoice. “Customer feedback consistently points to local content and sport as some of the things that people value most from Showmax. That’s of course on top of the international series, movies, and kids’ shows that are our bread and butter. With all of that content now available in a product designed specifically for mobile usage, we’re doing something no other service can offer.

“On top of that, with groundbreaking deals like our new offer with Vodacom in South Africa, we solve the credit card issue through add-to-bill payment and the data issue by including data directly in the package. We’re looking to launch similar offers in Kenya and Nigeria soon.”

Both the standard and mobile plans include live sport, sport magazine shows and sport documentaries. The 2019 Rugby World Cup Final was streamed live on Showmax earlier this month, and the following is a selection of some of the football due to be live-streamed in November:

22 November: Levante vs Mallorca (La Liga)

23 November: Arsenal vs Southampton (Premier League)

24 November: Bologna vs Parma (Serie A)

25 November: Aston Villa vs Newcastle United (Premier League)

29 November: Celta Vigo vs Valladolid (La Liga)

30 November: Fiorentina vs Lecce (Serie A)

30 November: Chelsea vs West Ham United (Premier League)

Showmax’s mobile plan is currently available in Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa. 

Comparison of Showmax plans:

Mobile Standard
Price per monthR49 / N1450 / KSh 375R99 / N2900 / KSh 750
Watch on smartphone or tabletYesYes
Watch on smart TV and computerNoYes
HD streamingNoYes
TV series, movies, kids’ showsYesYes
SportYesYes
Concurrent streams12
Cancel anytimeYesYes
14-day free trialYesYes
Chromecast and AirPlayNoYes
Number of devicesOne registered device5 devices can be registered, with 2 able to stream at the same time

For a 14-day free trial, visit www.showmax.com

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Online series wins SA’s Journalist of the Year award

A series of stories on gang warfare in Hanover Park earned Tammy Petersen of News24 the ultimate prize in South African journalism. Here are all the winners of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year awards.

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At the 18th edition of the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards held at Vodacom World earlier tonight, News24’s Tammy Petersen took top honours and the R100,000 grand prize as national winner for her body of work on a gang war series entitled When you live in Hanover Park, you know death. Petersen’s submission was one of over 1,000 entries received from around the country across 12 categories – Investigative, Opinion, Lifestyle, Photography, Sport, Economics, Politics, CSI, Live reporting/ breaking news, Data Journalism, Multi-platform and the Young Journalist of the Year Award. This year’s theme – Connect the Dots – pays tribute to the best-of-the-best of those entries.

Takalani Netshitenzhe, Chief Officer for Corporate Affairs at Vodacom Group says: “This year has seen extraordinary entries to the 18th Vodacom Journalist of the Year Awards. Not all the stories that are national winners were about huge events but also showed the importance of telling the stories of ordinary people. In line with our theme, the dots were indeed connected, and we congratulate all the winners.”

Convenor of the judging panel Ryland Fisher says: “The quality of entries has convinced the judges once again that our industry is in good hands, as far as journalism is concerned, despite the many problems that have beset the industry in recent times. Judging from the entries, South African journalists are determined to fly the flag high for a free, independent, and vigorous media, which augurs well for our democracy. As judges, we can only salute all the entrants for the great work that they submitted. In the end, our industry is probably the biggest winner.”

Judges for this year’s awards are: Ryland Fisher (convenor), Jermaine Craig, Arthur Goldstuck, Albe Grobbelaar, Franz Kruger, Patricia McCracken, Mapi Mhlangu, Collin Nxumalo, Mary Papayya, and Obed Zilwa.

Visit the next page for the full list of winners and their citations.

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