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Will the 3D printer make Santa's sleigh obsolete?

Child's Play
By PHILIP EIL  |  December 18, 2013

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THE MIGHTY MO, "the future of toys."

When Wayne Losey was introduced at last week’s holiday-themed Providence Geeks gathering at AS220, co-host Jack Templin described him as “an action figure god.” Losey would later call this “disputable” in an interview with the Phoenix, but there’s no disputing the fame of the toys on his resume. In more than a decade as a designer for Hasbro, he worked on toys for Shrek, Jurassic Park, Pokemon, Batman, Superman, Spider-Man, Ghost Rider, and G.I. Joe.

But mega million-dollar franchises weren’t the subject of Losey’s Providence Geeks presentation; in fact, as he explained, they were part of the reason he set out to make it as an indie designer. “[I had] kind of had enough of the dictates of working on Star Wars or Ninja Turtles or Transformers or anything else,” Losey told the crowd as he introduced Mo, the pocket-sized plastic figurine standing on the stage behind him. Mo — a humanoid, highly-maneuverable toy made from 15 parts connected via ball and socket system — is the mascot of ModiBot, the “universal build system” that Losey runs out of dual work spaces in Providence and Pawtucket. “Welcome to the future of toys,” reads the ModiBot Kickstarter campaign that exceeded its $12,000 goal this summer.

Losey, who grew up in Michigan playing with Lincoln Logs and Tinker Toys, told the AS220 crowd that ModiBot is “sort of a combination of LEGO Technics meets action figures.” While Mo and his female counterpart, Moli, are the most visible symbols of the system, they’re just a starting point, he says. On one hand, kids can outfit the figurines with the 3D-printed pistols, hockey sticks, cleaver axes, snorkel masks, Spartan helmets, and other accessories for sale on the vast online 3D printing bazaar, shapeways.com. They’re also welcome to bypass Mo and Moli altogether to construct centaurs or raptors or Christmas trees or a pencil holders or whatever else they can conceive using ModiBot parts. By Losey’s description, that’s exactly what happened this spring at Maker Faire in San Mateo, California (billed as “The Greatest Show and Tell on Earth”) when he set up a table piled with ModiBot pieces and then watched kids stay mesmerized for hours, snapping together creatures and creations as their parents looked on. “What you saw is that it wasn’t just that the kids were having fun,” Losey said, “it’s that the parents really wanted the kids to have this kind of fun.”

So what’s ModiBot’s plan for world domination? This was a question posed by one of the geeks in attendance at AS220. Losey admitted that peering into the future can be tough, but he did predict that in five years, half of the audience will have a 3D printer in their home capable of printing in multiple colors and materials. “The optimal way that you’ll interact with ModiBot then,” he said, “is you’ll just decide from 20,000 parts, you’ll self-assemble, and. . . [then] just press ‘Print’ and it’ll come out of your printer.”

Santa couldn’t be reached for comment at the time this article went to press.

For more info on ModiBot, go to modibot.com and shapeways.com/shops/kidmechano.

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