Geek holiday gift ideas: Robot roll call!

By Phil Plait | December 13, 2011 12:46 pm

[NOTE: A lot of folks are posting geek holiday gift ideas, which is great! I have a few things I want to mention, so I'll be posting a few of mine as well this week. I have a bunch I'll put in one post later, but what follows here needed some pictures, so it goes in a post by itself. Enjoy!]

The other day I got an email from my friend, the appropriately-named Bob Goodman. He told me that another friend of his, Sarah Stocker, had co-founded this company called My Robot Nation — where you can design your own little toy robot model, and then the company will create it using a 3D printer! Would I be interested in checking it out?

Duh. Emails and introductions were exchanged, and Sarah — full disclosure here — sent me a coupon code so I could make my own little toy minion. I called down my 15-year-old proto-geek daughter, and the two of us sat in front of my computer, logged in to My Robot Nation, and started playing with the robot design web interface.

It was fun! It was also pretty easy to get the hang of it. You can choose among many different styles of heads, bodies, and lower portions (legs, treads, and so on) as well as decorations (flames!), eyes, other accouterments (a jetpack!), and then finally colors. It took us about a half hour all told — punctuated with us saying things like "Cool!" and "Oh, that’s awesome" — and when we were satisfied, we submitted it.

A few days later, in the mail arrived… Chip!

Isn’t he adorable? He stands about 6.5 cm (2.5 inches) tall, so he’s not huge. However, different sizes are available up to 15 cm (6"). The robots are made of gypsum powder and a binding agent, and have a high-impact plastic feel. The 3D printer builds them up millimeter by millimeter, so there’s a lot of detail — we put flames on the side of Chip’s treads, and they look really cool. The colors are pretty much just as they were displayed when we designed Chip, too.

Again, I’ll note that Sarah at My Robot Nation gave me a coupon, so Chip was free. However, if I didn’t really like this product (and process!) I wouldn’t write about it, and designing Chip was just as much fun as getting him in the mail. This truly is a very cool idea, and I know a lot of geeks on my holiday gift list who would love this. In fact, I think this would make a great last-minute gift; you can buy a gift code for someone, present it to them on your holiday of choice, and then they can create the robot at their leisure. This is a great way to share your geekery with a loved one, and help indoctrinate introduce them to the Geek Way.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Geekery

Comments (22)

  1. mechbill2112

    STEREOLITHOGRAPHY. Its the geek way of saying “3D printer”.

  2. That Guy
  3. Chris

    Too bad you can’t make your own Dalek, although they are probably copyrighted. So cute.

    So when the internet becomes sentient, will it take over the company and start building evil robots to destroy us?

  4. Kendall

    Their website does not support internet explorer. What!!!??? They will miss out on a lot of business because of that.

  5. ERic

    OK. So, I wonder what their website *does* support. Because I just tried FF and Chrome and got the same message.

  6. Old Geezer

    I jumped right on in FF

  7. Darokthar

    Talking about the colors is a little bit unfair. Because there could be a big difference between the colors represented on the screen and the “real” colors of a picture. In fact GraphicDesigners use specially configured printers and screens to be sure the colors match.

    There are special color calorimeters to measure the color of the screen and then configure the screen accordingly.

  8. Tara Li

    The available shapes were all extremely cartoonish for my tastes. I’ll skip them.

  9. Wayne on the Plains

    It’s cool that you can search the previous creations. To see the entry for “chip”, you can search for “thebadastronomer”.

    I don’t know that much about WebGL, but I’m guessing (since I have the latest Firefox) that it’s a video card issue on my tablet. Will try the desktop at home and report back here. I really want to like this, but if I can’t actually make it work it will be hard to like or recommend.

    I’m guessing that most of their potential clients will have browsers other than IE (it IS for geeks, after all), but there needs to be more info about possible hardware limitations.

  10. Chris A.

    @ThatGuy (#2):

    “What no Fez?”

    Whattya mean? His whole HEAD is a fez! :)

  11. Frank

    What about Shapeways? They don’t limit you to robots.

  12. Steven H

    I just ordered one. Can’t wait until “Tik-Tok” arrives!

  13. Wayne on the Plains

    Firefox on home desktop doesn’t work, but it’s an old version. Chrome does work, though.

  14. Richard Woods

    Re: browser support –

    http://www.myrobotnation.com/faq

    “What browsers are supported?

    Chrome and the latest Firefox with WebGL enabled.

    Seriously – no Internet Explorer support?

    When Internet Explorer levels-up to support the new hotness that is browser-based 3D with WebGL, we’ll be thrilled to support them. “

  15. You have a 15-year-old daughter? I always thought you were younger Phil.

    Anyway, it’s a very cool idea, now all i have to do is wait for people’s birthdays, since on a student budget i’d never afford to give presents to all my friends at the same time (hence, no christmas presents for anyone!).

  16. American Voyager

    He reminds me of that robot in the Bugs Bunny cartoon which Elmer Fudd ordered to evict bugs from his carrot patch. LOL!! What about Robbie or the Lost in Space robot???

  17. MRUTTY

    The juxtaposition of BowTie and Buzzsaw shoulders leaves me bewildered.

  18. Jonathan Latimer

    Chris is right!

    The Star Trek Prototype Replicator… making Prototype Daleks!

    Eek!

  19. mike burkhart

    I like robots some of my favorte are : Robby the undisputed champion and the most famous since the 50s the robot form Lost in Space I love his lines “danger Will Robortson danger” and the ever populor “that dose not compute” The transformers are acutally more then just robots they are life forms , R2d2 good mecanic and copiolt c3po good for a laugh , trade fedration battle droids so stupid there funny , Data Starfleets best , Norman and the androids of mudds planet all right villans but they were neet with the blinking bages . now the worst that should be put in the junkpile Dr Roger Kobey his whole idea of turning the galaxy into androids was stupid ,Brian (space 1999) no comniet, Hector (saturn 3) Delos robots (westworld,futuerworld) movies were good but you knew something bad was going to happen when they say “nothing can go worng”

  20. Scott Romanowski

    Cool! Custom RoboRally pieces!!!

  21. alex

    I love these robots and the website that helps you create them. I don’t like how expensive they are, just too much.

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