By Gayathree Ganesan
(Reuters) - Mattel and tech company Osmo will launch an augmented reality version of Hotwheels toy cars on Thursday that seeks to duplicate the worldwide success of smartphone app Pokemon Go.
The Mindracers app gives users a prepackaged set of six of the famous toy cars and an iPad base which launches them on tracks that propels the driver into a virtual world on the tablet’s screen, simulating a car race.
It is among the first results of Mattel’s efforts to invest heavily in augmented and virtual reality features to their products at a time when traditional toymakers are struggling with changing patterns of play and toy store closures.
The world's biggest toymaker slashed its dividend by nearly 60 percent earlier this year to divert more money into developing innovative tech toys and expanding into emerging markets such as China.
Tech company Osmo, founded by ex-Google employees Pramod Sharma and Jerome Scholler three years ago, has priced the Mindracers kit at $59 on Amazon.com and its own website.
Mattel, which holds a stake in Osmo along with fellow toy company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and venture capital firm Shea Ventures LLC, will share an undisclosed percentage of sales revenues, Sharma said.
"Hot Wheels created an iconic childhood toy by inspiring imaginations with healthy play centered on physical cars,” Osmo chief executive Sharma told Reuters.
"We’re taking that beloved experience and blending it with the power of computer vision and AI to bring these cars to life."
(Reporting by Siddharth Cavale in Bengaluru; editing by Patrick Graham)