Have you had the chance to put together any of the new LEGO® sets for 2019 yet? Had you noticed the appearance of the QR Code on the front page of the instructions? This 2D Barcode is designed to be scanned by your mobile phone. If you scan it with your phone (current iOS software automatically detects the code and asks if you would like to open the web at lego.com. This invites you to download the app, and then recapture the image from within within the LEGO Life app – and then magic happens.
LEGO Life is a curated social media application, which provides a safe environment for kids to share pictures of their LEGO Creations, follow LEGO Social media streams, and see great content – including some featured content produced by AFOLs around the world.
This is not intended to be an overview of LEGO Life. Personally, I find the program limited for the kinds of interactions I make on line: everyone has a complicated nonsensical username – Mine is ProfessorGassyYam! All photographs are vetted for appropriate content first, and any photo which contains inappropriate content, including a child’s face, is prevented from being presented. Commenting on photographs is also limited to emojis. So, while this is not for me, I would have no problem recommending this platform for use by young children. However there is a certain amount of LEGO Group generated content that appears in the stream, and so are exposed to some advertising material.
What I do want to look at today is what happens when you scan the QR Code on the new instruction manuals with the camera, from within the LEGO Life App. I have seen two things happen. The first is simple enough: you are asked if you would like to add this set to your collection, and then to download the instructions. This essentially downloads the instruction manual(s) as you would if you go to the LEGO.com customer support site to download instruction manuals. [handy hint: don’t want to log in to LEGO Life, or generate an account? – that’s OK, you can scan the QR Code without logging in.
The experience is smooth enough – but static instructions don’t appear to be stored on your device: each time you access your instructions, they are downloaded. And some of these modern manuals are large. The instruction manuals for Reinhardt and D.Va (75973 ) are 55.8MB and 21.4 MB respectively. Not my preferred way to chew through my monthly data allowance. At present, there is no way to export the instructions to an external ‘books’ or pdf view app for offline use.
Get Instructions PLUS…
However, when I came to look at Bastion (75973) there was another experience… As well as offering to download the 25MB instruction manual, I was also invited to click on the ‘instructions plus.’ Note: subsequent visits to this feature were much faster: I presume that the data did not need to be downloaded a second time. I had no idea what to expect: I took the blue pill and went down the rabbit hole ( to borrow from The Matrix).
Initially I was presented with a picture of Bastion – the solitary build in this set. Touching on the picture I waited for the program to load. A picture of a grey plate appeared. That’s OK – that was step one. Before I was able to proceed with the build, you are taken through a brief tutorial on manipulating the elements: turn them round, flip them, zoom in and out. Sure: pretty dull for a 2×4 medium stone grey plate, but extrapolate this to a more complicated build and it becomes far more useful.
Here is a demonstration of the ways in which the build in progress can be manipulated:
Enhanced Element Call Out
Activating the call out magnification brings the elements added in each step to a full page view before putting them in place. This is particularly useful if you are using a phone, with a relatively small amount of screen real estate, if your eyesight is not as good as it could be, or if elements require some extra magnification and clarity to be able to distinguish them. This process requires an extra ‘click’ per step – to open and close the callout. In the instructions for Bastion, I often confused light stone grey with sand green (and there are many elements in both both colours used here) – discrimination between these colours was improved by turning up the brightness compared. To do this with a paper manual, I needed to increase the ambient light, which is not always possible.
Outlining Current Elements
Each step features a call out showing the elements being added in this step, and they are outlined in pulsating bright green, to make it easier to identify them. The call out can be magnified using by accessing different modes, in the bottom left corner of the screen.
Check Your Progress With Ghost Mode
The Ghost Mode allows you to see your progress through the current sub build – with all the elements in place, but transparent: but only becoming opaque after placement.
You can also turn sound on and off: The Instructions Plus doesn’t make a lot of noise, but when it does can be quite surprising.
I was quite impressed by the overall smoothness of the element manipulation, but this may well be dependent on the platform you use for the program. [All screen captures were performed with an iPhone 7 Plus]
I was impressed by the fluidity of the manipulation of the image: there was no noticeable delay or stagger as I manipulated the build.
Each step seemed to place even fewer elements than modern paper instructions.
There were a few negative points in the experience for me, however:
While I could use the slider to preview future steps of the build, I could not use it to jump forward, and still had to click through each step. This was tedious, especially as I had already partially built the model using paper instructions. Likewise, the slider could not be used to wind back several steps. Again, clicking through was necessary.
While I found this a little frustrating, I think it is probably a deliberate design move, as it makes it difficult to lose your place in the build. This mechanism does prevent you from accidentally sliding off the step you were up to.
Bastion is Not Alone.
At this stage ( and the year is still young) I have not found many sets featuring the ‘Instructions Plus’ feature. Bastion (75974) is one, and Lucy and Emmet’s Dream House/Rescue Rocket (70831), from the LEGO Movie 2 range is the other. I am sure there are others currently available, and that more will follow during the year.
The Dream House/Rescue Rocket set is quite different a different set to Bastion: there are two major builds, as well as multiple mini figures. On loading, you select from the two major builds. Each minifigure and smaller model has it’s own ‘Plus’ section, as well as the main house. At least you don’t need to flip through pages to find each figure and sub build…
Personally, I like paper. Is it just that I am full of nostalgia? Is it that I find when I am building at the end of the day that my phone and laptop batteries are in desperate need of a recharge? Or is it my tendency to flip back and forward through the instructions, when I realise I got the colours confused a few steps back, and I have now run out of appropriate elements? I am not sure.
Certainly, there is a convenience to the paper book. And there are also advantages to having an online backup – although sometimes these may vanish from the LEGO archive, and also be subjected to revisionism. The rise of digital building platforms such as Bricklink’s Stud.io, and Mecabricks also means that we can design and build models virtually, without even touching a piece of ABS. Personally, I don’t choose to build from a screen if I can help it. I do believe that for some people, and some models that the Instructions Plus platform offers a real advantage. I particularly like having the option to explore a build, without repeatedly pulling it apart and rebuilding a model.
At this stage, however I am interested to see which sets have the ‘Instructions plus’ feature activated, as there does not seem to be a reliable way to find out prior to opening the set. If you find any, why not comment below.
What do you think of the Instructions Plus? Does it have the potential to be something you would use? How do you feel about using digital platforms to guide your physical builds? Why not leave your comments below, and follow the Rambling Brick on WordPress, Facebook or Twitter for further updates.
Until next time,
Note: The sets referenced here were supplied by the LEGO Group for Review Purposes. Along the way I stumbled upon Instructions Plus. I hope you found it interesting.
LEGO Life is available for both iOS and Android devices