Kids today are intimately familiar with the workings and capabilities of mobile devices of all stripes. They're not so familiar with the technology used to create the kinds of 3D printed objects they'd love to pile up in their toy boxes.
That's about to change thanks to Bryan Salt, the Founder and Creative Director of Thinker Thing.
Salt has worked on the cutting edge of various technologies over the course of the last 25 years. He led the creative team that put the first 3D engine on the ARM 9 chipset, he broadcast the world's first digital puppet on BBC TV in 1994 and he was instrumental in introducing the first commercial motion capture studio to Europe. He also worked with medical companies and the British military on virtual reality visualizations and simulations, and he has published over 50 titles with household names such as Sony, Disney, Lego, Tron and Harry Potter.
Now Salt is hoping that his Dr. Fluff's Robot Factory can bring 3D printing technology – via an intuitive mobile device interface – to children, letting them build their own toys they can 3D print.
"3D printing is a fantastic technology, but until now only professionals could build the models for these machines. I wanted my young son to be able to express his own creativity and create his own toys, so we set about making 3d printing accessible to everyone," Salt said. "We were visiting a lot of schools with our brain controlled 3D printer, but, because of time, only a few children from each school could use it. So we also developed a touch screen version of our invention for the other kids to enjoy."
According to Salt, the idea took off from there.
"We had an incredible amount of interest about this work, with more than 500 million views around the world, so we decided to develop a mobile app that would allow anyone to be able to create for 3D printers," Salt said.
It's an interface designed for children, but there is a heavy premise behind the design.
"It uses what's called Evolutionary Computation, an approach that uses the same processes that created all life on earth," says Thinker Things CTO, George Laskowsky. "Evolution is incredibly powerful at creating complexity from very simple beginnings, so we use the child's preferences as a form of natural selection to evolve their perfect toy."
Thinker Thing will release their first application of the technology on Google Play this month, and they say Dr. Fluff's Robot Factory will "let users build a unique robot using just two simple touch gestures on a mobile phone or tablet."
And users won't even have to have their own printer to enjoy the app. Salt says you can "simply press 'print' and your toy arrives in the post in the material of your choice: plastic, rubber, ceramic – even silver and gold."
The Thinker Thing project was partially funded by the government of Chile through CORFO and was also supported by WAYRA, Chile.