Toy-maker Mattel is releasing a range of action figures that incorporate augmented reality technology, based on characters from the Avatar blockbuster movie hitting our screens around Christmas. The toys, to be launched in October, ‘come alive’ on your home computer when scanned on a webcam. Each action figure in the range has a unique 3-D web tag (i-TAG) which, when scanned, reveals special content onscreen. The animated 3-D models will show off “engaging, evading or defending moves”, says Mattel. And when two i-TAGs from the same Battle Pack are scanned together, the 3-D characters will interact on-screen.

Visitors to last month’s San Diego Comic-Con 2009 spied a preview of the toys (heroes, creatures and vehicles) from the much-anticipated James Cameron movie. Mattel says the Avatar figures are the first toys to incorporate augmented reality technology.

Each figure’s i-TAG, when scanned on a webcam, reveals special onscreen content unique to that particular product. Mattel says content varies for every item, but could include biographical information, additional images and animated models of the figures.

"The development of our Avatar toy line with the integration of the augmented reality technology marks an entirely new level of innovation in toys," said Doug Wadleigh, Vice President for Boys Action Play Marketing, Mattel, Inc. "Boys will be able to play with the Avatar figures and vehicles in ways that previously could only be imagined."

The i-TAG technology was developed by augmented reality specialist Total Immersion. The company, which has been in the business for more than 10 years, integrates real time interactive 3-D graphics into live video. If you don’t know the extent of augmented reality, check out the cool video from the company:

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