Even without Iron Man's repulsor gauntlets or Captain America's vibranium shield, playing superhero has gone high tech.
On Thursday, Hasbro and 3DPlusMe announced the launch of "Super Awesome Me," which uses 3-D printing technology to put a kid's face on a Marvel superhero action figure. Through Sept. 28, fans can visit scanning stations at one of 10 Walmart stores or two Sam's Club locations around the nation to create and order a figure in their likeness.
"It's actually really cool," said Chris Byrne, content director of toy review site TTPM. "It's not just the likeness; it's the whole fantasy of, 'Look at me, I'm Captain America.' "
The project came together in a few weeks—not fast compared to your typical superhero mission, but speedy given the number of big companies involved.
"We all knew we wanted to do this," said Kenny Davis, senior marketing director at Hasbro.
It's right on trend, too. Customization was huge at this year's Toy Fair, with most of the major brands pitching holiday toys with varying levels of personalization.
These included a My Monopoly board with printable photo stickers (suggested retail price of $19.99, Hasbro) and a Hot Wheels Airbrush Auto Design Custom Kit (suggested retail price of $34.97, Mattel). It's one of the themes toymakers are betting on to spark sales in the industry, which saw sales fall 1 percent to $22.1 billion last year, according to the NPD Group
"3-D printing is just a technology," Davis said. "It's not what's fun for kids."
But becoming your own superhero action figure? That was something the company could get behind, he said.
Shoppers currently have a choice of Iron Man or Captain America, tied to Disney Consumer Products' Marvel Super Hero September campaign, said Cydni Tetro, chief executive officer of 3DPlusMe. More characters are expected down the line, with the kiosks rotating to other store locations.
At about $45, the 12-inch action figures aren't cheap—they're a little less than four times the price of a comparable noncustom figure, by Hasbro's estimates. But they're about half the price of other toys that are entirely 3-D printed, Byrne said, because the prefabricated action figure body helps keep costs at a palatable level.
Parents may also see value in the figure as a keepsake, since it captures what their child looks like right now. "I don't expect that these will be toys so much as they will be collectibles," Byrne said.
Becoming a superhero is surprisingly fast. CNBC.com took the kiosk for a test run, and gearing up as Iron Man took less than five minutes.
The scan itself is just 30 seconds, but participants must hold their perfect superhero face still for the duration. (For that reason, it's recommended for kids age 4 and older, Tetro said.) To thwart fidgeters, the screen plays movie clips to help keep users focused; in that short time, the kiosk takes three quick scans to choose from. Then it's just a few clicks to select your superhero and enter your contact information.
Turnaround time is about three to four weeks. Orders placed at Walmart can be picked up in store, while Sam's Club orders will be shipped.