For fifteen years, Sarah Stocker and Mark Danks worked in the video game industry. They had experience in all kinds of genres and with all sorts of platforms. “We learned from making games that everyone is creative. Everyone can create. We all just need a fun and easy way to start.”
So when they discovered 3D Systems’ ZPrinting technology and saw its color and quality capabilities, they knew that “3D printing was ready to jump out of the domain of rapid prototyping and engineers and be a true consumer experience. Imagine it and make it real – how futuristic is that?”
Equipped with this revelation, Ms. Stocker and Mr. Danks founded My Robot Nation. “It’s been amazing to see how quickly the creative community of MRN has grown! We launched My Robot Nation in the end of October 2011, and were acquired by 3D Systems in April of this year.”
Basically, My Robot Nation allows users to create their own unique robots straight on their browsers. This is done by mixing and matching parts, placing attachments and stamps, and choosing colors and poses. “…then when you’ve got him or her JUST the way you want, we’ll make him real using the magic of full-color 3D printing and send him to your door!”
When asked why they chose robots, Ms. Stocker explains simply: “we knew it had to start with robots – cute, mischievous, infinitely variable robots.”
My Robot Nation uses 3D Systems’ ZPrinting technology to make these robots. Each of them is unique and in full color, made from a material much like plaster of Paris, which feels quite like a ceramic object. As Ms. Stocker says, “we took those years of game design and interactive technology expertise to build the engine and creative experience that drives My Robot Nation.” They’ve even integrated social features into an online site, which allows robot creators to share their designs with each other, called The Nation.
This portion of their website fosters a rich and active community of master creators. These include creators such as Chilong, Bfryman, Darwin, Chienhow, and Cygnes, to name a few. These creators (and others like them) have designed hundreds of robots that look like skyscrapers, samurai warriors, knights in shining armor and even tentacled aliens.
“We knew from the start it would be vital to let people show off their creations and be inspired by what others create. When you put your heart into something, you love to share it, and it’s incredibly validating and encouraging when another person appreciates what you do. In the Nation we have a photo of every robot ever created, and a page where anyone can ‘Like” that robot and promote him in the Nation. It’s exciting to see how completely the Nation has adopted that and how proud people are of their creations. We also made it possible for people to share them on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+ so that everyone can see the awesome creations of the My Robot Nation citizens. Our favorite part is when people send us photos of their robots in the real world – we love to see robots in the wild!”
So what made Ms. Stocker and Mr. Danks create My Robot Nation? “We wanted to empower people’s creativity in a new and amazing way – by letting you create something on your computer, then hold the real life object you created in your hand. We wanted to take that experience directly to consumers and build a platform that lets anyone, anywhere be creative in 3D.”
Ms. Stocker is so enthusiastic about 3D printing that she went on to say: “3D printing is this decade’s greatest technological game changer and we wanted to bring it directly to the public and let people play with it! Our target customer is anyone who wants to express and share their creativity. Robots are just the beginning.”
My Robot Nation teamed up with 3D Systems for this reason. “[It was] natural to us – they share our excitement about unleashing creativity with the coolest technologies. They’re the company that founded the original 3D printing technology over 25 years ago and they are deeply committed to empowering consumers with the ability to create and make in 3D. 3D Systems lets us take that goal farther and faster, creating a future where we all don’t just buy objects someone else created any more – we make our own!”
You don’t have to look too far to see a perfect example of this shift to a more personalized product. The robots are showing the way. One of Ms. Stocker’s favorite stories coming out of ‘The Nation’ concerned a robot created during the holidays last year. “One of our Citizens used a robot she created to propose to her boyfriend! The robot had ‘Will You Marry Me?’ written on it. He opened the package Christmas day and said ‘Yes!’ We were so touched that they chose My Robot Nation to be part of their love story.” Indeed, that is how Ms. Stocker envisions the future of 3D printing. “We are democratizing creativity and putting it within reach of everyone!”
Video and images courtesy of My Robot Nation