Disney might have officially called it quits in publishing its own digital games, but it isn’t completely throwing in the towel in researching the best ways to make those. Either that or the researchers at Disney got the memo too late. Teaming up with researchers from Carnegie Mellon and MIT, Disney Researchers have come across a solution that would make RFID-based toys and games faster but also more efficient, by doing away with the need to even include batteries just to keep track of objects.
Toys and games that utilize the radio wave based wireless technology known as RFID isn’t exactly new. One could perhaps lump the likes of Skylanders and Nintendo’s Amiibos in this category, as the NFC technology they use is practically a subset of RFID. Used in games, however, RFID has some drawbacks. It ultimately needs some amount of power to broadcast its presence or state. A battery makes the most sense, but it bulks up objects and pushes up costs. RFIDs can operate passively without a battery, passively receiving energy from an RFID reader. The drawback to this is that it produces significant delays, sometimes even minutes, because of the low power that is transmitted.
That is what Disney Research’s “RapID” attempts to solve, and not by introducing a new type of RFID. Instead, RapID utilizes algorithms, specifically probabilistic modeling and Monte Carlo sampling to decrease that delay to only 200 milliseconds at most. In practice, that means near instantaneous reactions from a computer or console that uses the RFID reader.
The implications for toys, games, and other interactive systems is quite significant. For one, off the shelf RFID tags can be used for any purpose, no need to for custom tags or whatnot. Such objects also won’t need any battery just to boost the reading speed and accuracy. As such, RFID tags can be used for real-time games of tic-tac-toe ping-pong, using real-world objects that get represented digitally in real time.
RapID could greatly benefit the still young niche market now known as “toys-to-life”, which tries to bridge real-world toys with their digital counterparts. Too bad Disney already announced its departure from that market, but it still leaves the possibility of some other game publishing partner taking up the cause.