If you ever wanted to be frozen in carbonite like Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back, you'll have to wait a few years before cryonics technology makes it possible. But if you visited Disney's Hollywood Studios this past spring as part of the Star Wars Weekends celebration, Disney's Carbon-Freeze Me experience could create a figurine with your own face looking as if you were in carbon freeze.
That's right -- Disney is embracing 3D printing.
Now thanks to Disney Research, the Walt Disney World Resort is offering a similar service: girls from ages 3-12 can have a princess figurine made with their face on it. By using a high resolution 3D facial scanner to create a digital model, girls can select which of three expressions they want to be printed onto one of the seven classic Disney princesses. The seven-inch high figurines are then shipped to them in 5 to 6 weeks (presumably after they are painted). The D-Tech Me Princess experience costs $100, and like Carbon-Freeze Me, is available for a limited time.
Here's the promotional video for the service:
The tech being used here isn't anything groundbreaking. Advances in 3D scanning have come a long way, allowing users to digitize entire rooms with a handheld device or even stitch together a bunch of images taken with a smartphone to create a digital 3D model. Additionally, professional low-cost 3D printers are starting to arrive on the market.
But the real innovation here is how Disney is using the technology, by bringing the process to the customers, which is wise considering that over 17 million visit Disney World every year. That means those who have not heard about 3D printing will experience awe at seeing the technology for the first time, and that is after all a part of the Disney "magic"...and 3D printing has magic in spades. By picking applications for 3D printing that might prove popular among certain consumers -- it's hard to beat Star Wars and Disney's Princess line -- they enhance the potential for sales. Additionally, it serves as a test market that could ultimately be launched online, as other 3D printing companies have done.
Disney Research is an initiative that is bridging the gap between commercial interests of the company and researchers around the world. This is not only a smart business move from a sales point of view, but it is part of the company's brand. Cool advances like the recent touch-sensitive plants for controlling computers are being developed because the Disney researchers are taking emergent technologies and applying them to engineer specific experiences for their customers.
It is those efforts that help to increase adoption of technologies that might otherwise get shelved. Thankfully, 3D printing has now captured the attention of a vast array of hackers, DIYers, designers, and enthusiasts, promising even more awesome uses to come.
If you are still disappointed about not having a carbonite figurine, perhaps the tech will return for next year's Star Wars weekends. Until then, you can watch this video to see more of what you missed with the Carbon-Freeze Me experience: