Multi-award winning Augmented Reality brought kids toys to life in store

See the world through a child’s eyes

“The goal was to make something emotional, not just technical.”

In late 2014, we were hired by John Lewis - working in partnership with Microsoft - to act as an innovation lab for their “Monty The Penguin” Christmas campaign.

If you don’t remember the ad, have a look.


The creative brief was to get people to ‘see the world through a child’s eyes’. The answer – Monty’s Magical Toy Machine – let kids bring THEIR OWN toys into store, and turn them into interactive 3D animations. The concept was simple, emotional, and fiendishly technically complex.

Kids would hand their toys to a Monty helper, where it would be placed in Monty’s Magical Toy Machine, shot by cameras, and turned into a 3D animation on a giant screen. Kids would interact with their toy using Kinect technology.

Take a look at how we did it:


Knowing the WHY

The first step in successful technology innovation - forget about the tech.

Instead, all the focus is on the customer. For us, that was to make a child’s toy come to life.

Next, it needed to be simple. Simplicity was essential on this project, for three primary reasons:

Firstly, could a five year old understand it immediately?

Secondly, we faced a complex technical challenge. This was brand new technology with no documentation, did any proposed technical solution help or hinder taking us towards our vision?

Thirdly, we had multiple collaborative partners – not only within and between The Tech Dept  and Microsoft, but at adam&eveDDB, Manning Gotlieb OMD and John Lewis themselves. There were also many partners like Gorilla who made the rig, or contractors working on specific technical challenges. A clear vision meant that everyone could be sure that they were working in the same direction.

The key moment of truth came when we tested an early prototype of the concept with Microsoft Creative Director Ben Richard’s son’s toy – Gerry The Giraffe. Would his son “get” it?

After trying it for the first time, he asks “Are toys really alive…?”, to which Ben replies “What do you think?”. And in a heartbeat the answer, “YES!”. We knew at that point our vision was clear.

Treat failure like a scientist

We experimented rapidly. Failing fast and capturing data from things that didn’t work out. Before using the insights to improve the next iteration, before it was finally ready for action.

There were many parts of the process that required this approach, including the capturing of the 3D image of the child’s toy.  We tried a range of techniques – led by Techdept CTO Rick Grundy – from a Kinect, to a hand scanner, before we settled on the process of photogrammetry.

Photogrammetry actually came from an unexpected source: satellite imaging technology. We discovered it after much trial and error, and realised that its ability to realistically capture surface textures was going to give us what we needed, a realistic 3D image of a fluffy child’s toy, which we could then animate and make interactive.

The results

  • Over 2600 kids saw their toys come to life
  • More than 150 featured articles in major press
  • And the campaign won a Cannes Lions Gold Award for innovation


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