HYBRIDEX

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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Ubooly

Ubooly 1

Ubooly is a plush creature that comes alive when you place an iDevice inside of it. Ubooly can then tell jokes and stories, make conversation, even recognizing users’ pitch. Ubooly can also be customized to teach children math and science.    

Launched through a Kickstarter campaign, Ubooly is a “slip-in” hybrid toy, aimed mostly at kids. Users first buy the Ubooly plushie and then download the free app. The interactive face of Ubooly can be customized and it talks back when spoken to. Similar to Furby, two Uboolies can recognize each other and have conversation.

The toy is also a service, as Ubooly downloads interactive content every month over wifi, including games, stories, and adventures. The initial download includes over four hours of content and the company estimates that there will be roughly half an hour worth of extra content per month. Content packs are available as in-app purchases.

In Ubooly Lab parents can customize Ubooly to teach their child new languages, math, and ocean biology, among other things. After this Ubooly’s data can be accessed to see how the kids are progressing. Other features include Ubooly walking kids through teeth brushing, i.e. making the two minute brushing session more engaging via a song or a story, changing it each time to keep it fresh.


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Blythe dolls

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlythe is a fashion doll with an oversized head and large eyes that change color with a pull of a string. Sold originally during 1972-73, Blythe dolls experienced resurgence in 2000 and since then have achieved a cult status among adult collectors.

Created in 1972 and initially sold for one year only in the USA by toy company Kenner, the Blythe doll rose to new prominence in 2000 following media exposure by New York TV producer Gina Garan and a photo book by her, This is Blythe (2000). In 2001 Japanese toy Blythe dolls 1company Takara, under a licence issued by Hasbro (the Trademark and License owner), began producing new editions of the dolls called Neo Blythe. After notable success in Japan, Hasbro issued a license to Ashton-Drake Galleries in 2004 to sell Blythe replica dolls in the United States. There the doll became a niche product in a marginal market, selling largely to adults, supported by a network of hobbyists who create clothing and shoes for the Blythe dolls, building their collection but also customizing them for resale. Many enthusiasts share also stylized photographs of their work on the Internet.

The dolls range in retail price from around US$60 for the Ashton Drake versions to upwards of several thousand dollars for an original Kenner doll in the collector’s market.


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Monster High

Monster High 1Monster High is a doll line aimed at girls. It focuses on a group of girls who are presented as cute, age-appropriate versions of classic movie monsters. The Mattel created toy line has gained a significant boost in popularity due to a webisode series. 

Monster High is a fashion doll franchise released by Mattel in the July, 2010. The characters are inspired by monster movies, sci-fi horror, and thriller fiction. The Monster High franchise also includes other consumer products such as stationery, bags, key chains, and various other toys. There are also Monster High TV specials, a web series, a direct to DVD movie, game software, and a Monster High young adult novel series, created by Lisi Harrison.

There are two Monster High themed video games (Nintendo DS, Wii). On the Monster High website users can access games, character bios, and several other activities. Monster High webisodes (short, episodic, online episodes which typically last around two minutes), viewable on the site, regularly attract at least 500,000 views and often more than 1 million. With an audience like that, Mattel also has fertile ground for promoting the latest Monster High toy releases. In Mattel’s most recent Q3 financial results (2011), girls’ brands were up 57 per cent, ‘primarily driven by Monster High’.


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Talk With Me Barbie

Talk With Me Barbie 2

Released in 1997, Mattel’s Talk With Me Barbie was a programmable Barbie doll set that came with a special PC-connecting toy-desk and a CD-ROM. With the aid of these the Barbie could pronounce the user’s name and make preprogrammed comments.

Talk With Me Barbie doll from 1997 came with its own PC table that was connected to the user’s PC. The associated program came on a CD-ROM which was included in the package. Using the computer program, the users could select a set of phrases and their own name for Barbie to speak. When the user’s PC was connected to the play set desk and the Barbie was seated by it, the phrases were then stored into the Barbie’s necklace through utilizing infrared beaming, thus allowing the use of the voice functions without any accessories. Barbie (or rather, the necklace) could pronounce over 15,000 names, including a lot of uncommon ones, and even do different kinds of pronunciations. The phrases included on the CD covered a wide array of different kinds of situations. The user did not, however, have a possibility to create his or her own phrases.

Retailing for $90 in the US, Talk With Me Barbie was eventually deemed too expensive to be profitable and discontinued.

 


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First moments with my Makie doll, Anna Marie

Summer 2012 I ordered my very first Makie doll from MakieLabs.

MakieLabs is a toy and games company developing “future-smashing toy: customisable, 3D-printed, locally made, and game-enabled”, unique ball-jointed dolls. MakieLabs is based in London.

I ordered my Anna Marie from the first alpha-batch. This is the first physical doll that I have bought on my adult age. The closest experience to Makies has been my history as an active The Sims player in the beginning of 2000. I can see some similarities in the fascination of this hobby over the digital/virtual craft.

Anna Marie is “born digital”. This means that you create an avatar, give her name and personality and then you can, if you wish, order her as 3D-printed fully functional doll.

Interestingly, there is something a bit scary in physical dolls. The first two nights I made sure that Anna Marie was in a comfortable position so that she would not get too mad at me, if at some point the scenario of Chucky would come to life. I know, it is a bit funny. But that happened. I guess there is something engaging in the process of creating something unique and then bringing her into life.

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Anna Marie came in a sleek tube. I liked this style!

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The first thing I saw was her pink hair. Pretty!

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Was not too happy with the first self-made clothing, but it was fun! On the background, you can also see her in her digital life.

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Work in progress. This sweater was not the best summer garment though…

Annakaisa Kultima, Researcher and Project Manager of Hybridex.