A team of researchers from Disney Research and Carnegie Mellon University has discovered a way to process RFID tag signals with enough speed to make them suitable for use in games, physical interfaces and other interactive objects.
The technique makes it possible to use RFID tags to sense movement or touch in near real-time. The low-cost tags could soon be incorporated into slider and rotary controls for games and toys, or for use in other applications that demand prompt response. Typically, RFID tags are most commonly used for asset tracking and inventory control in retail stores and warehouses.
“You can create interactive objects that are essentially disposable and perhaps even recyclable,” says Scott Hudson, professor in Carnegie Mellon’s Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII). He says that RFID tags could also be incorporated into durable objects, such as interactive pop-up books and toys, in which batteries or wires would be inconvenient or infeasible.
The CMU and Disney researchers presented their research this month at CHI 2016, the Association for Computing Machinery’s Conference on Human Factors in Computing.
The solution revolves around a framework called RapID that interprets the signals by weighing possibilities rather than always waiting on confirmation. For example, a slider controller might work by moving an object that successively obscures the antennas of a series of RFID tags. If one obscured tag suddenly is uncovered, the system might reason that the next tag in line will be obscured. RapID reduced typical lag times from two seconds to less than 200 milliseconds, which is similar to other interactive systems.
The researchers demonstrated the capability of RapID by instrumenting a toy spaceship, whose movements would animate an on-screen spaceship; by developing a Tic-Tac-Toe application that uses a physical game board and pieces, and congratulates players when they win; and by building an audio control board that enables an interactive music-mixing experience, among other apps.
“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,” says Alanson Sample, research scientist at Disney Research.