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The Personal Side of 3-D Printing: Awesome Action Figures Of Yourself

At a Japanese pop-up store, you can get a perfectly lifelike rendering of yourself—in miniature.

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The democratization of 3-D printers might lead to new houses, better equipped soldiers, and even a revitalization of U.S. manufacturing. On the other end of the spectrum, it’s also resulting in awesome personalized action figures. The high-tech printers might be an obsession among technologists, but rarely do most people get to interact with the expensive machines at this point, let alone use them to take 3-D selfies. At a pop-up shop in a Japanese mall, visitors who enter a photobooth won’t leave with the standard issue printout of black and white photos. Instead, a mini-sculpture of their full body, comparable to a personalized action figure, will arrive in the mail one month later.

The project, called Omote 3D, is the work of Tokyo and New York-based creative studio PARTY, in collaboration with other agencies Rhizomatiks, and Engine Film, and is running until January. Photobooth-goers must reserve a slot online in advance, and pay between 21,000 and 42,000 yen ($258 to $500) for a figure, depending on the size. Then, they’ll enter the booth, strike a pose, and maintain it for a solid 15 minutes, while an attendant administers a full-body scan with a tool resembling a microscope. The data is sent to a computer, which translates the data into a 3-D rendering and is eventually fed to a printer.

The one downside (beyond the hefty fee): Certain materials, including fur, anything shiny, or transparent, plus glasses and accessories, don’t scan well. So while the sculpture will channel photobooth posers’ inner superhero as action figure, their relatively basic attire will say otherwise.