The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug will hit theaters in less than two weeks, and Google's not the only tech company taking part in build-up to the next Middle-earth film. Microsoft announced a partnership with Warner Bros. UK that'll bring some interactive ads to Windows 8 apps and eventually across the MSN and the Xbox 360. While the ads offer standard fare like links to buy tickets and check out movie trailers, there's one particularly clever component to the campaign — viewers will be able to download 3D-printing blueprints for the Key of Erebor, a prop that should feature prominently in the second part of the Hobbit film trilogy.
It's a fun idea, albeit one that only a small number of 3D printing and Tolkien enthusiasts will likely take advantage of — but it's also an idea that could become increasingly commonplace. Just last month, the team behind Ender's Game announced it would offer 3D-printed prop replicas that fans could order directly. However, the Microsoft / Warner Bros. partnership takes it a step further, letting fans download the blueprint directly and print it anywhere they want — including their own 3D printers. Only time will tell if it looks as good as the official replicas offered by Weta, who designs all of the major props and weapons for director Peter Jackson's films.