When I first ran into this story about 3D printed smart dolls, the name on immediately rang a bell: Danny Choo. As soon as I saw his photo on the Culture Japan blog, I remembered: he is the first person that made me understand, back in 2012, about the, then upcoming, “3D printed selfie” trend. Choo’s creativity is nothing short of amazing, starting from the gorgeous pictures he takes for all his blog entries. So, if he says the time has come for 3D printed smart dolls with Terminator-like insides, he is probably right.
Danny Choo has been using 3D printing to develop work on a smart doll inspired by the Chobits anime characters for a while now and the news is that he is giving up the 1:3 scale, the 60-cm tall version to move onto a 120 cm version which will be able to walk around and pick up objects. It will be continuously connected to the internet to access information and to integrate Dropcam and Nest (now part of the same company) functionality for home security and management.
The other news is that Choo, who also conducts 3D printer reviews and is fundamentally a consumer 3D printing expert, has now gone from using a Formlab SLA 3D printer to the ATOM modular delta FFF 3D printer. The filament machine’s accuracy, he explains, now meets a fully satisfactory 50-micron level, with hefty a 42cm x 42 cm x 76cm print volume.
With Choo, you never really know the boundaries between reality and imagination. The entire smart doll project, it seems, was born as an April Fools prank last year (so don’t be too sure about this new entry either). What is undeniably true is the beauty of the shots and the 3D models he makes, as well as the designs he creates and the almost perfect anime style of the dolls. Whichever the case, he is usually onto something so, even if he does not effectively get to produce this smart doll, someone else is going to do it soon thereafter.
The first time around, what started as a prank became a real project and Choo developed the first smart doll, attracting the interest of the Japanese robotics industry. In Japan, the reality is about as close to fantasy as it gets: as fully documented on his blog, Danny Choo has worked for the Japanese government’s Creative industries Internationalisation Committee since 2013 and has now been appointed by the Japanese Cabinet to the “Cool Japan Strategy Committee” (this is not a joke).
So, now, Danny’s 3D printed doll project continues with the 120 cm model which, he assures, will be a lot more affordable to develop. He says that this decision came in spite of the fact that many fans appreciated the 60-cm version, which you can still buy for the equivalent of about $500. These come in both the Mirai Suenaga and the Kizuna Yumenu version, or, if you want a male doll, you can go for the Eiji Seiun version. He explains that, in the taller models, he and his team can use standard servo motors and do not need to develop custom ones. Choo also explains that enabling the doll to walk is a must, since SoftBank released the Pepper walking robot.
There are a lot more surprises on Danny Choo’s website and we will let you discover them for yourselves. For example, the fact that Choo intends to enable its dolls to use flame throwers as “non-lethal” weapons (but we will ascribe this to the list of April Fools pranks). Or that Choo defines each new iteration of his smart dolls as part of a ‘T’ series. We are now on T2, and I am very curious to find out what the T-1000 will look like.
Update December 6th, 2020
The much larger volumes that Danny Choo’s factory is producing require injection molded parts. However, the 3D printers, clearly visible in the photo at the bottom, are used for prototypes and customizations.