A Research Project on Hybrid Experiences

Makie Dolls

Makie Dolls 4Makies are 3D printed dolls. User customizes the doll’s facial features in MakieLab web service after which the doll is printed and shipped. Through the service, additional clothes and accessories are also available.

The lowering costs of 3D printing sees companies adapting the technology to new sectors, such as customizable toys. MakieLab lets customers closely define the appearance – face, skin color, hair type and color – of the elf-like Makie doll via a related web service. Users are able to create as many virtual Makies as they want and then order the creations they like as 3D printed dolls. The service can then be used to shop from a wide variety of additional doll clothes and accessories. Makies support more extensive customizing, too, as the doll’s head can be fitted with electronics, such as Lilypad Arduino sets, Bluetooth, and RFID tags, for further tinkering.

While the price tag of roughly 80€ is not necessarily too high for children, high-end collectible toys are often embraced by adult aficionados. This kind of business model strongly relies on the community, as the users are encouraged to create custom content and share design tips and photos.

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Designer toys

Designer toys 3cTo an extent, toy design and production has been liberated from the hands of big companies and in to the laps of artists and designers, as anyone can commission a batch of few hundred toys from China. 

Made of variety of materials, such as ABS plastic and vinyl, designer toys are often produced in limited editions typically from as few as 10 or as many as 2000 pieces. Besides having backgrounds in graphic design, illustration or self-described low brow art, many of the designers have connections to graffiti art, a feature evident in the mash-up aesthetic of the scene.

Designer toys first appeared in the 1990s and are a continuing niche success, gaining more attention as high profile trade conventions such as Comic Con have chosen to expand to include toys also. Having an “adult feel” to them designer toys often birth online communities of adult collectors who exchange toy related information, pictures, etc. Sub-categories of designer toys include urban vinyl, designer plush, and designer consumer electronics.

Despite the importance of China the creative epicenter of designer toy world has moved from Far East to the west, in the Americas, Europe, and even South-Africa. As people buy stock toys, repaint them, and sell them online, many times for thousands of dollars, the line between consumer and artist is blurred to the point the two are often indistinguishable.