Disney’s new creation: RFID Controllers


Disney is already done with self –publishing console games and will be soon shutting down its toys to life franchise i.e. Disney Infinity, as the company hasn’t done quite innovating in the space. Disney’s research and Carnegie mellon university researchers have bought this new low tech into the picture by building prototypes of an RFID game controller concept that function a lot like those infinity figurines.

During their demo of the prototype game pieces, the researchers showed how moving the RFID-fitted objects almost instantly affects the state of their digital counterparts on screen. In one of their demonstrations, the researchers played a game of tic-tac-toe with a wooden board and game pieces. On screen, the digital game mirrored the real-world action. Once perfected, the technology could scale up to more complex games including chess and checkers. The researchers even proposed that the tech would be suitable embedded in toys-to-life figurines, such as Nintendo’s Amiibo or Activision’s Skylanders. The researchers settled on RFID tech because of the low cost of the sensors – about 10 cents each – and the ability to embed these without having to incorporate circuitry, wires and battery into the design, according to Alanson Sample, research scientist at Disney Research.

The RFID tags are able to transmit radio signals that relay information about movement and touch, but the researchers had to find a way to expedite the transmission of that data to lower latency down to acceptable levels. To limit that latency, the researchers developed a framework called RapID, and it was able to cut latency down from 2 seconds to 200 milliseconds. Instead of waiting for confirmation of touch or movement input, the RapID framework uses probabilities to relay its best estimate of its trajectory and whether the sensor has been touched or covered.

“By making it easy to add RFID-based sensing to objects, RapID enables the design of new, custom interactive devices with a very fast development cycle,” Sample said. While the RapID tech and RFID tags could find a place in the toys-to-life industry, it certainly won’t save Disney’s doomed Infinity series. Disney previously announced that the series would skip this year, but later revealed that the toys-to-life franchise would die along with Disney’s efforts in self-publishing games.