Smart Doll: Hands On Preview
The ball jointed doll (BJD) community received some rather interesting attention last year with the announcement of the Smart Doll, a robotic doll that would interact with your phone. Originally started as a joke by popular anime blogger and entrepreneur, Danny Choo, the popularity of the doll has led to the creation of a non robotic version. How does the Smart Doll compare to other leading doll lines such as Dollfie Dream? How does the Smart Doll really feel like or handle?
We stopped by Danny's office, Mirai Inc. in Tokyo to find out.
The exterior of the doll or the outer shell is very similar to a Dollfie Dream made of soft vinyl material with a similar texture; however, each piece is thinner than a Dollfie Dream part which helps in reducing the weight of the doll. We were able to get our hands on a prototype of the doll frame which appears to be very sturdy made out of polyoxymethylene and minimizes the use of screws compared to other dolls. The joints felt strong and took a bit of effort to move. The backbone itself is probably the most interesting design utilizing individual ball joints which allows for unrivaled flexibility and poses. Danny notes that he is still working on the frame and the final product will not have any gaps in the joints.
While the dolls themselves will be manufactured in Japan, the clothes for the doll will be made in various countries such as Hong Kong, Korea, Spain, and Malaysia. The wigs for the dolls will be made in Korea. The eyes are currently made with resin although Danny is also looking into glass to increase clarity of the eyes. As some followers may know, Danny has a family history with the shoe manufacturer industry. Danny decided to design his own shoes for the Smart Doll, although initially he wasn't completely satisfied with the prototype, he realized it was still comparable if not better than what was currently available in the market.
The dolls will be assembled in different countries and shipped from there. For example, the dolls sold in the America will be assembled in the United States. The manual version of the Smart Doll will be available fully assembled and as an injection model kit where the frame will need to be cut out and assembled. Smart Doll 001 : Mirai Suenaga will be available potentially around late Spring 2014 for the Asian market while for our American readers, the dolls will be first available in Summer at Anime Expo. Those who preorder will be able to purchase the dolls for the discounted price of roughly $500 USD and will retail for $600 USD. Overall, Danny is looking to release 3 models this year with at least 1000 units available, then 5 to 10 thousand units the following year aiming for the dolls to be available worldwide.
Around the office, Danny had a reference doll with bridal wear which he was interested in releasing for the Smart Doll. Most of the available doll clothes on the market should be wearable by his dolls, although the arms and legs may be slightly longer. Danny notes he would be definitely be interested in releasing outfits in the future for his dolls. As for the chest regions, some of the bust sizes may be larger than the average Dollfie Dream counterpart. The Smart Doll will have interchangeable parts including 3 different bust sizes. Mirai will come with a modest size while fans who prefer a more well endowed body can upgrade to a larger size.
We also inquired about warranty information such as what happens if something was damaged originally or by accident. Danny mentions that they have plans for including warranty but they are currently still looking into managing the logistics of that aspect.
Of course many of you who are reading this will note we have been discussing the non robotic standard frame Smart Doll, so whatever happened to the robotic one? Due to various issues and problems, Danny noted they are looking into tackling various problems including battery life and already working on a second prototype. The robotic version will be interactive through an Android app and hopefully in the future includes iOS. He hopes that automatic Smart Doll will be available next year.
We look forward in the release of the Smart Doll and hopefully will be able to get our hands on a sample review model soon; stay tuned. To learn more about the Smart Doll, please also visit Danny's website.