The children's book "LEO the Maker Prince" introduces readers to LEO, a talking robot and 3D printer who can print anything in plastic that his friend Carla draws. Leo's robot pals also share his love for making 3D objects and can print in metal, or from a catalog of designs.
And here's where things get really fun. As young readers follow the characters' adventures through Brooklyn, they themselves learn how to explore their creativity through 3D printing. Design files of all the objects and characters from the book can be downloaded from Thingiverse, including Carla and LEO's adorable sheep.
The author of the innovative book, Carla Diana, has an impressive background in design and 3D printing and a long-standing working relationship with the product innovation firm Smart Design. She's the firm's first smart fellow and oversees the Smart Interaction Lab, an initiative focused on design explorations in the form of hands-on experimentation around topics such as expressive objects and digital making.
Diana also works on humanoid robots, and last year wrote an essay, Talking, Walking Objects, for The New York Times about her experiences exploring intuitive ways for robots and humans to live and work alongside one another.
Recently, Make magazine interviewed Diana in a Google+ Hangout about her book and how her work with robots inspired her to write such a groundbreaking children's book on the joys of 3D printing.
"I thought of these robots as companions in a way," Diana told Make. "Some of this comes from my background designing robots for research tasks, giving them a personality and a face. I found that people have incredible emotions towards machines and they do read personality in them. All of the robots in the book are characters that work alongside their human companion. They work together. It's exciting to think of our 3D printers as companions that help us to be creative."