Legos Alive Festival in Manhattan NYC
The Legos Really did Come Alive This Weekend
This past weekend I made my way down to Legos Alive at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, little realizing what was in store for me. I thought I would be covering a kiddie toy event for ages 6 through 12, which it was … but also so much more.
Pier 36 on the Lower East Side
Pier 36 is located along the East River on the Manhattan side. It's just north of the South Street Seaport along the east side [passing under] the FDR at 299 South Street. I walked the half / mile from the #4/5/6 subway stop at Canal Street.
Upon entering the voluminous Pier 36 facility, I found before me, a hodgepodge of competitions, workshops, video stations and vendor booths – all focused on bringing alive, what I remember as a kids toy building blocks kit … but that was a remembrance of many, many years ago.
Legos, at their core, is still a portfolio of building blocks kit, but it is now so much more, as you’ll soon see.
Legos Alive - it Really Brings Alive the Legos Creative Experience
One of the first things I noticed were life sized figures of action heroes – from Flash Gordon and Captain America to Wonder Woman and Superman. These life sized figures were all built using hundreds of Legos. And in the case of the small replica of a dinosaur, possibly even a thousand or more blocks. From a distance they looked almost real, but when I closed in on them, I could see the famous blocks of which they were comprised.
There was a competition in session, where teams of kids had five minutes to build the biggest bridge. They weighed the bridge to see which was the largest, as counting them would have taken quite some time. The winning one(s) weighed in at about ten pounds. Bravo.
Legos Alive Provided a Real & Virtual Experience
Workshops, Virtual Reality, Robotics & Design Software
I started to make my way through the exhibition space watching with interest as fathers and sons, mothers and daughters and all combinations thereof, huddled together in a creative effort examining, designing, building and then operating their Lego inspired creations. Using the photos I took of the crowd at the session I attended, and multiplying that crowd estimate by the five sessions they offered, I guestimated they may have had in the neighborhood of 10,000 visitors over the weekend, but a spokesperson estimated the attendance may have run as high as 16,000 or 17,000 visitors. The entrance fees started at $45 for a general session admission, which ran about four hours.
- CLICK here to read the rest of our report including photos of the Legos Alive Festival at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
Legos Alive Festival in Manhattan NYC
The Legos Really did Come Alive This Weekend
Legos Alive Robotics Software & Robotics Industry Trends
One work area was equipped with motorized and sensorized modules that could be used to create, what were in essence, toy robots. I’ve been watching the news as robotics is increasingly replacing industrial workers in all kinds of routinized activities. It’s not been lost on me that manufacturing, in a manner not unlike farming , is becoming increasingly mechanized.
Farming is today a largely mechanized industry, which in 2008 employed less than two percent of the American workforce [source: Wikipedia.org]. At the turn of the last century  about 38% of the U.S. workforce [source: agclassroom.org] was engaged in farming. Similarly, manufacturing in 1915 employed 22% of the workforce, while today it employs about 10% of the workforce. And the number of people working in manufacturing has been steadily declining for many decades.
In both cases, it’s the automation that is replacing the workers. Car companies, for example require fewer workers per auto output than ever before because robotics are replacing the routinized jobs. And at the Legos Alive festival, I can only surmise that some of the great robotics engineers, may have been toddling around the exhibit hall with their parents getting a good taste of what they might do in the future.
The kids and their parents made machines with wheels that went forward, backward, turned left and right, picked up things and what not. In some cases the parents were clearly there to let the kids engage in the fun, but in a few cases I wasn’t sure if it was the toddler or the ‘big kid’ who was having the most fun.
LegoLand - Legos Themed Parks
I met a woman from LegoLand, which is a separate company / brand of Legos. She had once worked for Legos, but eventually became involved in the LegoLand enterprise, which operates a couple of theme parks in the U.S. centered around the Legos experience.
The woman was clearly an enthusiast, and told me that LegoLand is on schedule to open a LegoLand Theme park in Goshen, New York a couple of years from now in 2020. She told me that LegoLand has been operating two other theme parks in the U.S. – one in Carlsbad, California [near San Diego] which opened in 1999 [she attended the opening] and the other opened in Winterhaven, Florida which isn’t far from Orlando.
She gave me a LegoLand brochure which invites parents and kids ages 2 – 12 to push, pull, steer, squirt, splash, crawl, climb and build their way through over 50 rides and shows of Lego themed attractions.
While we were conversing she and her co-presenter gave me a bit of the Lego history, which I’ll share with you. Legos is a Danish company that was incorporated in 1934 building wooden toys. After World War II, in 1947, they bought a plastic molding machine, which they used to make the now famous bricks. In 1967 Legos participated in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and in 1968 they opened their first theme park in Billund, Denmark, which is about 100 to 120 miles west of Copenhagen.
Today there are eight LegoLand parks around the world, with two and soon to be three in the U.S. The Goshen LegoLand theme park is about 60 miles mostly north and a bit west of New York [west of Newburgh and south of Middletown]. LegoLand is a company that is independent of Legos and has a licensing arrangement with them.
Legos Alive on Pier 36 on the Lower East Side
I continued my journey into the greatly enhanced world of Legos Alive at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side [LES] and soon came upon all kinds of video games, including a virtual reality [VR] module where an exhibitor was giving kids virtual rides inside a completely fabricated, pixelated world. We could see what the kids were seeing on a video monitor as the exhibitor moved the kids around in a chair. Needless to say, this was a very popular attraction and I was thankful I didn’t have to wait in the line with a youngster. But that said, the parents and kids in line, seemed engaged enough watching the kids doing the demo.
I met Mark Guest, a spokesperson for Parallel Live, the company that organized the show a bit later on and he told me that this was part of the Minecraft software that Lego sells, wherein kids can create their own worlds inside the software and then go exploring in them. There was a workshop nearby where I met one of the fathers who gave me a brief description of what was happening, while his son toiled away.
Legos MineCraft Software
Building Pixelated / Animated Worlds & Exploring Them
Lego’s MineCraft software has two modes or zones as he called them. The first mode is where kids can build their own world including buildings and other structures, people, animals, farms, mansions and whole cities. After they build these they can go inside and explore the world they created. Kids can then animate the world they created. If you've seen the 2010 sci-fi movie, Inception, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Cillian Murphy, Ellen Page and Michael Caine, you're a long way toward comprehending what I witnessed in this section of Legos Alive.
The second mode or zone is an immersive mine, where kids then put in the Virtual Reality [VR] headsets and then go and experience the world, which is what I had seen / mentioned above. I kind of found all of this very ‘mine boggling’ as I briefly reminisced back to the wooden building blocks I and my brothers played with as youngsters, paving wooden block streets and building one - and on a good day - two story houses.
Lego MineStorms Software - it's all About the Robotics
The second software package offered by Lego is called MineStorms. This software is the official Lego robotic module where kids can design and then use Legos to build robotic devices. I witnessed this too, watching as kids used the software, like we used to use instruction sets, to build little machines / devices. Legos offers a whole host of sensors, motors and you can use colored Lego blocks to program instructions into the device. For example a red Lego brick might indicate turn left and a green one turn right. Mark told me that someone had built a replica of the Millenium Falcon from Star Wars. There was a Star Wars booth at the show, but by the time I landed there, my jedi energy had run low.
All in all it was a far more interesting journey than I had anticipated. I suppose it’s a glimpse into what is likely coming over the next century or so. And it’s possible some of the creative forces behind what’s coming, may have been toddling around the Legos Alive at Pier 36 on the Lower East Side [LES] in Manhattan this past weekend.
May the force be with you.
A last footnote is that Legos Alive is organized by Parallel Live which was founded and went public in 2017. Parallel Live is a company that is independent of Legos. It's run by a founder of Brick Live, which runs about a dozen and a half Brick Live events [which are similar to Legos Alive] outside of the U.S. around the world. Brick Live events are run independent of the Lego brand, but include / feature them in the event, while Legos Alive is a collaboration between Legos and Parallel Live.
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