MakerBot Deepens Ties to Syfy Labs for 3D Models Based on TV Shows

Xconomy New York — 

Following up on its January debut at CES, the newly minted Syfy Labs is working again with MakerBot Industries in Brooklyn to use 3D printing as a way to connect audiences with its lineup of television shows.

As much as this is a possible windfall for MakerBot, it speaks more broadly to an effort to link digital entertainment with emerging technology that people use outside of television.

Syfy Labs, an innovation branch for cable network Syfy, announced it expanded its partnership with MakerBot to include more of its shows. Initially the collaboration covered new show The Expanse, with users of MakerBot able to access digital models of spaceships and emblems they could recreate at home on their desktop 3D printers. Now the partnership covers shows including 12 Monkeys, The Magicians, Killjoys, Dark Matter, and Hunters (which is set to debut in April).

For MakerBot, this deal is naturally another chance to try and boost mainstream interest in desktop 3D printing—a long-running effort for the company as it seeks to expand beyond the hobbyist market.

At Syfy Labs, this is one of several ideas being tried to bridge its content with technology that fans can interact with. “The goal was to not limit this to The Expanse,” says Matthew Chiavelli, senior vice president of Syfy Digital, and the head of Syfy Labs. “That was a golden opportunity because it had cool-looking spaceships and lots of them.”

With shows such as 12 Monkeys, fans can download the digital models from MakerBot’s Thingiverse, an online community for 3D printing designs, to reproduce the time machine featured on the show.

In addition to regular scripted primetime series, the relationship with MakerBot could extend to specials and films. “We’ve been talking about what we could do for the next Sharknado movie,” Chiavelli says.

Other technology Syfy Labs wants to explore includes virtual reality, Chiavelli says, but he could not go into much detail yet. The exhibit at CES, for instance, featured Samsung Gear VR headsets that let people view the spaceships of The Expanse—and the time could be right to offer more content for virtual reality. Deals Samsung has offered on sales of Gear VR—and other companies pushing this technology—could also drive more use of virtual reality, Chiavelli says. “It’s a nascent medium,” he says. “We feel like we’re finally able to get something that resembles scale with Google Cardboard.”

If watching The Expanse on TV is not enough, fans can get a virtual reality taste of the spaceships. (photo by Joao-Pierre S. Ruth)

If watching The Expanse on TV is not enough, fans can get a virtual reality taste of the spaceships. (photo by Joao-Pierre S. Ruth)