Geppetto-style toymaking with Atmel and Arduino

The London-based MakieLab wants to take its customers back to a time when real toy making was a creative, hands-on “Geppetto” experience.

Indeed, the MakieLab platform allows DIY Makers to design a doll from scratch, which is ultimately uploaded and 3D printed at MakieLab headquarters. Subsequently, they are painted, with eyelashes and other features carefully affixed by hand.

“Avatars are very popular, but virtual goods have been phenomenal – we wanted to see if virtual could turn to real. We also wanted to help, introduce the magic of 3D printing to games and toys,” MakieLab founder Alice Taylor told Wired’s Liat Clark on the sidelines of Maker Faire Rome 2013.

“[So] we put out a working demo immediately, you would never normally do that. Dolls usually take four years from concept to shelf, between testing, building and feedback. We tried it the software way. We put it live and iterated with feedback.”

According to Taylor, MakieLab soon found that Makers wanted even more mods made, so they put clothing design online for people to hack, while also fitting the Atmel-powered (ATmega168V/ATmega328V) LilyPad Arduino inside the dolls’ heads.

“One lady called Cat wanted [‘smart’] ears,” said Taylor. “Whenever she walks into a room and claps her hand, the doll’s ears move toward the sound.”

Taylor confirmed that MakieLab would continue to offer additional personalization, which will be supplemented by an upcoming game in which children can build stories around their characters.

“One day, kids may create it all, right down to drawing fabric we can print with laser printers,” she added. “When we show kids how it’s done, you can see their eyes changing in front of you. They’ll grow up believing they can build things in ways we can’t imagine.”

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