Alice Taylor, when writing or speaking about her unrepentant passion for games, play, and interactive technology beguiles you with her charm and her contagious enthusiasm. And she is as much about mischief as fun — navigating the tricky balance between entertainment and education, an “undercover” educator who delivers on both fronts and engages participants in underlying questions. And she pulls this off with the same hardcore gamer’s grace-under-pressure that once earned her a spot as “DC_Crystaltips” on the first UK Quake team.
More recently, she co-founded the company MakieLab, introducing user-customizable, 3D printed dolls and action figures into the toy market. The Makies encourage and promote personality, imagination, and offer children the full spectrum of potential futures — dolls are serious play! — to nurture their inner needs in an otherwise cookie-cutter Barbies/Bratz/etc-dominated toy industry.
From an interview with MAKE:
Makies are manufactured using a 3D printing technology called selective laser sintering (SLS), in which a laser fuses together particles of nylon powder to form the individual parts. The process can produce items with very high fidelity and strength, compared with the more common fused deposition modelling process (FDM), often used in desktop 3D printers, where a filament of plastic is extruded to build up a model in layers.
The downside of this process is price, with SLS machines costing an order of magnitude more than their FDM cousins. Nevertheless, SLS technology could be described as just-about-affordable, and Makies are a perfect application for consumer-quality 3D printing. Digitally designed, and each one unique, Makies are a sign today of a much-talked-about future trend in manufacturing: mass-customisation.
“We set out to make consumer-facing goods using 3D printing. The original vision was: virtual goods would produce physical goods; the physical goods you would be able to modify, and that would feed back into the virtual world. That would create a kind of loop between digital and physical. The only way you can do that is with a digital thing that also lives as a physical thing, connected with an identity. The traditional technology for manufacturing toys makes it hard. 3D printing technology makes it possible.”
So 3D printing makes personalised dolls possible. And personalisation is what makes a Makie special.
“You look at a kid playing with an action figure or a doll – they’re story-telling, usually. That’s really creative, and if they’ve had a hand making those characters themselves, that’s even more the case,” says Alice.
The creativity starts at the design stage, before the doll is manufactured. But it continues on after it has been shipped, through play, and further customisation. A Makie is never truly finished, and this is what makes it such a powerful product. It’s a toy that can be made your own, through design, decoration, accessorising and story-telling.
And some customers are going to even greater lengths to personalise their Makie; they’re reaching for the Dremel and the soldering iron.
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