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Hands on: Marvin’s iMagic

I'm a grown, cynical man and this smartphone magic kit still amazed me

By subtly using an AR app, and smartphone tech, this box of traditional magic tracks has been given a modern makeover. The result is every bit as fun as it should be.

Who doesn’t like a magic trick? Whether it’s an overly dramatic illusion created by a mega-rich entertainer, or a card trick performed by a relative at a birthday party — magic is something that makes all but the most jaded laugh and smile. Except today, virtual-reality headsets, incredible mobile devices, and increasingly immersive video games are so distracting, it’s difficult to care about how that playing card got into my jacket pocket.

For Marvin’s Magic, the world’s number-one magic company (and we mean in the way of producing magic kits and toys, not in the Harry Potter way), the challenge of making magic sets relevant and attractive to kids overwhelmed with cool tech wasn’t taken lightly. The result is Marvin’s iMagic, where mobile and magic come together in a single, wonderful box of tricks; and it’s an absolute joy.

How the hell did they do that?

What could have been a cynical cash-grab, or a hastily thrown together box of painfully uncool rubbish, Marvin’s iMagic combines traditional magic tricks with subtle use of modern smartphone and augmented-reality tech. What’s clever is the mobile aspect doesn’t feel tacked on. It’s part of the trick, but it doesn’t feel arbitrary, or lessen the effect of the trick. After all, on-screen tricks are far less impressive than the ones actually performed by a person right in front of our eyes.

Marvin's iMagic
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

How does it all work? Well, we were sworn to secrecy after getting an early hands-on look at Marvin’s iMagic, but we were allowed to film one of the tricks being performed. Provided we didn’t reveal how it was done, of course. The trick was a variation on the established “pick a card, any card” format, with an added techy twist. You can watch the full presentation in the video above, but it’s the reaction that matters. Despite being a grown man, and this not being the first time I’d seen such a trick, it still made me smile, laugh, and — because I’m really a schoolboy inside — question how the hell it was done.

Surely, that’s what all magic tricks should do? But it’s not that easy, particularly when spicing things up with a smartphone that no matter what Steve Jobs told us, isn’t magical at all. Marvin, however, has managed to do it. It was fantastic to see what could have been a toy resigned to the back of the cupboard being reinvigorated with seemless, classy augmented reality magic that works extremely well. Don’t worry though, just like all the best magic tricks, Marvin’s iMagic also has plenty of actual, physical props, which still take center stage. The smartphone side of the tricks is integral, but it’s not the focus — an important distinction, and the key to its appeal.

A great blend of mobile and magic

In addition to the card tricks, there are illusions, mind-reading tricks, and a special magical coloring book that also managed to make me laugh and shake my head in disbelief. If I’m happy to watch the tricks being performed, then I figure it’s likely the young people learning to do them will be equally happy.

Despite being a grown man, and this not being the first time I’d seen such a trick, it still made me smile.

There are step-by-step instructions on how to do the tricks, and a supporting app that’s available for both iOS and Android. Marvin’s iMagic will be sold in two different boxes. A standard edition and a premium tin version, with more tricks inside. Marvin recommends them for ages 8 and up. Currently announced for release in the UK on August 20, the standard version is available for £25 online or at retailers including Hamleys and Harrods, while the tin edition comes in at £35.

Scare stories about kids not looking up from their phones or tablets are common. This shouldn’t be a reason to discourage an interest in tech, particularly when interactive toys that blend impressive (not corny, or substandard) mobile apps with physical props are available. Marvin’s iMagic is a perfect example of how to properly bring the two together, in a reasonably priced set that should appeal to budding magicians of all ages, whether performing, or as a member of the audience.

Highs

  • Fun, interactive tricks
  • High-quality app with great AR effects
  • Reasonably priced

Lows

  • None

Available at: Amazon