Barclaycard Toys Unleashed: Augmented reality in the palm of your hand

When Barclaycard invited me to a trendy East London dim sum restaurant to preview their new augmented reality gaming app I was confused, flattered and desperate to try the scallion pancakes.

If you think of Barclaycard as a credit card company you’d be 100% correct. It’s in the name. But they’d like you to think beyond their obvious function and to reposition themselves as a “payment provider”. To raise awareness of this function and to further develop innovate ways to part you with your cash such as the PayTag which we covered here Barclaycard are constantly on the lookout for ways to raise their profile. Obviously they have an advertising campaign (that had passed me by as I sold my soul to Netflix a long time ago) but an interesting sign of the times is that they have developed an iPhone game to go along with the campaign – Toys Unleashed.


What I found most interesting was that this wasn’t the first time they’d done this and that it’s a successful way of marketing. I was also impressed that something as fusty as a credit card company would be so bold as to jump on the apps bandwagon. In another life I worked for top-tier finance companies and their reluctance to embrace technology in any way shape or form was breathtaking.

One of Barclaycard’s recent apps, Waterslide Extreme had 20 million downloads and one of the developers told me that there are probably a fair few kids deep in America’s heartland that probably think Barclaycard just make games.

Toys Unleashed is an Augmented Reality children’s game where you hold a tiny avatar in the palm of your hand. You can feed a monkey or battle spaceships with a small robot. It’s mildly distracting but probably best suited for those 10 and under.

The most interesting thing about the app however (apart from its role as an integrated marketing strategy) is its augmented reality functionality. Rather than having to lay down a marker and having that be a focal point that the app interacts with the developers were able to use your skin as a marker, which is actually a pretty impressive feat of programming involving lots of motion tracking. The practical upshot of this is that you can simply hold out your palm and the phone will recognise and interact with it.

The Barclaycard Toys Unleashed iPhone app is free and out now.