So I've been interested in these new "Customise online" Makie Dolls since I first saw an advert for them on Facebook a few months back, and I have to say I have been tempted several times, but there are a few things that are holding me back, first though I guess it's only fair for me to show you what I'm talking about in case you have no idea, so here goes...
|Screenshot from Makielab.com|
It's a bit like making an "Avatar" for a game, you choose the sex, hair colour, eye, cheek, jaw, eyebrows, nose, feet etc shape, size, hand pose and clothes your Makie will wear (N.B - Not all the clothes in that section are free, there are also additional items available from the shop area of the website).
Then you name him or her, write a bit about them if you wish, and save them, as I did for the screenshot below:
Once you have created your Makie, you can save it and use it as an Avatar on games or as a display pic' etc or you can pay £99.00 and have him or her "made real" into a 10 inch replica of your created image... So what's not to like?
Exactly, it sounds great doesn't it? and even better, their eyes are not "Fixed" so you can, if you want unhook them and give them movement, they also invite you to buy a lilypad arduino board and soup that baby up!
The neck is hollow so you can place the wires inside it and there is also a space in the body? where you can place a battery to power the "lilypad board" as you can see in the screenshots (lifted from their blog) below, the head cavity is the perfect size and has a detachable "skull cap" to unable you to place the lilypad board" inside.
The above links, provide links to datasheets, instructions, downloadable software, extra troubleshooting information, and it seems to me, everything else you'd need once you've purchased your lilypad arduino board and wired it up inside your Makie Doll.
"Manufactured in London, England and designed to be long-lasting, Makies have greatpotential for showcasing creativity and interacting with humans: the body can fit a LilypadArduino or similar, and can accommodate LEDs, RFIDs and battery packs, voicechips, Bluetooth and Arduino. They are produced and packaged eco-consciously and with minimalwaste."
And that's not all, according to the Press Release, under the heading "The Makies Community" there is the following information:
"Since alpha launch in June 2012, we’ve been building a diverse community of creators andearly Makie adopters: doll collectors, crafters, hackers and makers of all kinds. Although it’searly days, we’ve already seen a variety of fantastic Makies projects: Arduino ears, photovignettes with custom-made miniatures, stop-motion videos, and lots more. This kind of user creativity is what Makies is all about, and we’re supporting it by maintaining an open dialogue with our users, spotlighting creative work by our community members,releasing patterns and posting our own experimental results."
They also welcome suggestions and information from doll owners, hackers and just about anyone else who has any suggestions on how to improve their product. In fact, they seem a very friendly company, who (obviously) want people to enjoy their product, but unlike many other companies, who don't care about how the product measures up after purchase; MakieLab understand the basic business truth that if a customer is happy, they will continue to buy your product and not only that, they will also recommend it to others!
The doll comes packaged inside a cardboard "Poster tube" - tied to a separate piece of card with ribbon (I love dolls being secured in that way!) they come with a "Care Sheet" and a "signed and numbered certificate" bearing an "unique identification number " showing details of when the doll was designed etc, as you can see in this photo - also taken from the Press Pack...
They have no "Face-up" option so the doll comes to you with no detailing apart from the facial shapes etc. which you specify during the design phase. This is either a plus or a minus, depending on how you look at it, and they are according to the "Press Release", designed to last, another unique feature in our throw away society, in fact Alice Taylor ( MakieLabs CEO) states:
"The dolls should last a lifetime, with a bit of care. They’re pretty robust plastic, but of course it all depends on how you play with them! They are designed to be upgradeable and to be modded; The eyes can be swapped out easily, the hair comes off, and there’s even space in the skull and back for batteries and DIY electronics like a Lilypad Arduino, if you’re that sort of maker".
They are only available at present in this porcelain white skin tone and they do not have alternative hand shape or positions the shape and gesture - (peace sign, grabbing, flat etc. oh and I forgot to mention, if you wish you can give your Makie a hook for a hand or even tentacles .. yes that's right, I said "TENTACLES"!) - you chose when you design the Makie is the one you get on your doll,
Although these have to be purchased in most cases, individually at present, unlike Azone who offer a pack of several hand poses or Obitsu who include extra hands along with the body.
One cool thing MakieLabs do sell in the shop is a packet of "Scrap Bits" which you can use as "testers" to determine what products would be safe to use on your doll, if you feel you'd like to bring out it's individuality more with a "Face Up" .
Several Makie Parents have been using these "Scraps" to experiment with various ways in which the body colour could be dyed, here are some of their findings: http://makie.me/forum/topic/85-were-doing-science/
I have also ordered a bag of scraps as I'm very curious about the texture and and porous nature of the Nylon "skin", and I have a few ideas of my own as to how the skin could be dyed permanently so I'll be conducting my own experiments and posting my findings up here and in the forum for anyone who is interested.
I'm also very curious about "carving" so I might try that too, although I have been informed that the nylon is very tough to get through...but we shall see where my muse takes me in due course!
At the time I made my first Makie Avatar in May the custom options were at a minimum, which is to a certain degree expected and I'm pleased to say they've added so much more since then, but I can't help feeling there are so many more things that would be so cool to have a s options...Such as my very wishfully thinking that they will soon give the option so you can buy heads only in the shop, or even just the faces!
As I have 3 Makies saved that I'd love to "make real" but that's just due to their faces mainly, so to be able to buy one full one and the two other heads would be so cool...I could play "Worzel Makie"!!
The company are very aware that some of these things may be an issue for "Customisers" and they address this in the Press Release in this passage:
"Ongoing expansion of Makies will include plastic colours and more clothes and accessories,plus games and creativity tools. Expansion into a series of toys targeted at the 3+ market is planned for 2013."
Judging from this picture that I found in the Press Pack, they have already began the prototype stage for dark skinned Makie - "Wooohoooo!!"
I have mailed them with a couple of suggestions and questions, as I can't help thinking £99.00, is a lot of cash for a doll I'll have to alter to a certain degree, and I can't help wondering what plastic they make these dolls from as any customiser knows at times you have to be careful what products you use or risk damaging the plastic irreparably.
Looking at the "Press Photo" below it's very hard for me not to keep wanting one (at least!)...
Although, having said that, if possible I would be much happier to start my "with a Makie journey" by getting my hands on a head, so I had to ask if there are any plans to sell them separably in the future.
I was wondering if you have ever considered the possibility of allowing Makie Buyers to customise and buy a head only?
I think a lot of collectors and customisers would be happy to have this option, speaking for myself (I am both btw!) I really like the idea of Makies but at the same time I'm not sure if doing all the customising prior to even holding the doll is as appealing as having a doll in hand and having your muse lead you to the doll's potential, also I know from experience this can sometimes change after a year or even a few months post customising, in which case having an already custom made doll may feel more of a bind than a obitsu for example which could be easily altered if desired, in this sense I feel the ability to "change heads" would be a great bonus.
Also, are these dolls made of a delicate plastic or would it be possible to add make up, eyelashes etc, without having to worry about the properties of acrylic (and other paints) or glues affecting and possibly warping the doll's face?
Thank you for taking the time to read my mail.
I'll update this post when I (if I) receive an answer to my questions, I can't help but hope so as this will give me an idea of how good their Customer Services Dept. is - always an important thing to know... anyhoo, until then, here's some more Makie cuteness!
If this post has whetted your appetite, head on over to http://www.makielab.com/ and have a go at customising your own Makie Avatar or even Makie Doll!
What can I say? except maybe "Wow" !!
As I said last night, I sent an email with a couple of suggestions and questions and to be honest, I didn't really expect a reply so soon, especially as work days are just starting back to normal after the holidays, but just now I was checking out my emails...and there it was, a really friendly message which addressed my issues exactly and in some ways gave me more information than I actually expected, so in answer to my question I posed, well hinted at, in last night's post - the Customer Support Department is brilliant, and in replying so quickly, it made me feel my concerns are valued and that I'd definitely like to deal with these people in future!
Yes of course I know that's part of the plan, but hey...who cares? it worked!!
In case your were wondering about the answers; here's a shot of the reply I received...
Please leave me a comment if you find you cannot read it and I'll type it into the post for you, alternatively if you click the image it will bring it up in it's original size so you can read it...
P.s, I forgot to add... All images have been taken from the MakieLabs Press Pack and website, unless previously stated, the cool thing about this is MakieLabs have issued a note to Bloggers stating we are free to use images and screenshots as we wish, but of course a link back would be kind!
Lol fear not Makie Folks, I'm happy to spread the word for you, while I use your awesome images!!