This Photo Booth Will 3-D Print a Replica of Your Face

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
Nov. 20 2012 5:20 PM

MakerBot's 3-D Photo Booth Will Print a Replica of Your Face

MakerBot blogger Andrew Pelkey tries out the company's new 3D Photo Booth.
MakerBot blogger Andrew Pelkey tries out the company's new 3D Photo Booth.

Image courtesy of MakerBot

I've explained before why today's home 3-D printing techology is far better-suited to making useless plastic trinkets than to fomenting a 21st-century industrial revolution. But one point I've probably failed to sufficiently emphasize is that useless plastic trinkets can be awesome!

Case in point: MakerBot's new 3-D Photo Booth. Unveiled at the grand opening of the first MakerBot Retail Store today in Manhattan's artsy NoHo neighborhood, the photo booth uses ShapeShot's 3-D Face Viewer to scan your mug and generate a 3-D computer model of your likeness. That electronic blueprint can then be fed into a 3-D printer to generate a plastic replica of your head.

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Does anyone need a plastic replica of their head? I can't imagine why they would. But might your loved ones want one to place on their desk or mantle in lieu of a boring ol' 2-D photo? Quite possibly!

The Photo Booth is clever because it capitalizes on 3-D printing's two biggest strengths: the ability to generate a one-off gizmo that no one would ever go to the trouble to mass-produce, and the sheer fun of turning any image you can dream up into a real, physical object. No one gets that more than MakerBot's Bre Pettis, whose retail store is a veritable Valhalla of whimsical novelty items.

3d model of a face
The result.

As you can see from the picture at left, no one is going to confuse your monochromatic MakerBot face with a Rodin sculpture, nor even with the bespoke bobbleheads you can order online from various outlets. But the Photo Booth technology will presumably improve over time, and it's already cheaper and quicker than the alternatives. The 3-D computer model takes a few minutes and costs $5, while the actual models ship in about a week and cost $20, $40, and $60 for small, medium, and large versions. Or, of course, you can spring for the $2,200 MakerBot Replicator 2 and print as many as you want in the comfort of your home.

MakerBot Photo Booth image
The Photo Booth lets you take three scans of your face and choose the one you like best.

Image courtesy of MakerBot

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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