Walt Disney building smart toys and IOT devices

Walt Disney Co.’s lab network, together with scientists from MIT, the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon, has developed systems that the company could use to help robots identify individuals, as well as to track everyday interactions between people and things.

RapID is similar to an older Disney Research project called ID-Sense (see RFID for Reading People’s Reactions). The goal of the ID-Sense project was to develop a system for identifying human-object interactions within a home or store environment, and thereby determine what is happening at that location—what jacket was tried on in a store, for instance, or whether someone poured himself or herself a bowl of cereal in a kitchen. As part of this project, researchers affixed off-the-shelf UHF tags to a toy, as well as to various household objects, and monitored the change in low-level communication parameters (such as RSSI, RF phase, read rate and Doppler shift) between the RFID tag and the reader. This enabled them to determine if the tag was being moved or interacted with.

With ID-Sense, the RFID technology could track a person’s activities, such as making breakfast, drinking milk, wearing glasses, reading a book or turning a TV on and off. During testing, the group attached tags to such items as a bowl, a container of cereal and a milk carton. The system could not only identify when a tag was moved, but also when it was touched or covered. By placing a reader on the ceiling, the team was able to detect

RapID, one of the other three Disney Research projects described in recently published studies, utilizes passive RFID to create inexpensive, wireless sensing devices for gaming purposes. A third project, known as PaperID, discusses methods for tracking how individuals move or touch a tagged piece of paper, including recording drawn or marked responses via a special pen.

The fourth project, EM-ID, focuses on the unique patterns of electromagnetic (EM) waves emitted by electronic devices, and also explores how EM signals can be used to uniquely identify each electronic device, such as a smartphone, a laptop or a Hasbro Lightsaber toy, so that RFID tags or bar codes would not be required. Instead, the researchers measured the unique EM emissions from each electronic object in order to identify it.
Disney Research consists of three labs, located in Los Angeles, Pittsburgh and Zurich, comprising 230 principal researchers and 60 staff members and postdoctoral students. The RFID research has been underway at the Pittsburgh lab, but the four projects were also the result of collaborations with scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of Washington and Carnegie Mellon University.

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