Geek holiday gift ideas: Robot roll call!

The entire universe in blog form
Dec. 13 2011 12:46 PM

Geek holiday gift ideas: Robot roll call!

[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?

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

Advertisement

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.


TODAY IN SLATE

Frame Game

Hard Knocks

I was hit by a teacher in an East Texas public school. It taught me nothing.

There Are New Abuse Allegations Against Adrian Peterson

After This Merger, One Company Could Control One-Third of the Planet's Beer Sales

John Oliver Pleads for Scotland to Stay With the U.K.

If You’re Outraged by the NFL, Follow This Satirical Blowhard on Twitter

Jurisprudence

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police

The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 1:51 PM Here’s Why College Women Don’t Take Rape Allegations to the Police
  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 15 2014 8:56 PM The Benghazi Whistleblower Who Might Have Revealed a Massive Scandal on his Poetry Blog
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 15 2014 7:27 PM Could IUDs Be the Next Great Weapon in the Battle Against Poverty?
  Life
Outward
Sept. 15 2014 4:38 PM What Is Straight Ice Cream?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Sept. 15 2014 11:38 AM The Slate Doctor Who Podcast: Episode 4  A spoiler-filled discussion of "Listen."
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 15 2014 8:58 PM Lorde Does an Excellent Cover of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights”
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 15 2014 4:49 PM Cheetah Robot Is Now Wireless and Gallivanting on MIT’s Campus
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 15 2014 11:00 AM The Comet and the Cosmic Beehive
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.