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OPLIN 4cast #352: Disney Research in wireless and mobile

Posted in 4cast

Disney ResearchWe’ve recently seen a couple of intriguing stories about research projects involving unexpected uses of hands. One project uses vortices of air to enable people to feel virtual objects as if they were touching an actual physical object. Another project transmits otherwise inaudible sounds from one person to another just by touching an ear with a finger. In both cases, the research comes from The Walt Disney Company, which might be unexpected until you consider that Disney is a very big user of technology, both in its films and in its theme parks. Some of the projects they are working on in the area of wireless and mobile computing might someday be useful for libraries. All links below are to Disney Research.

  • Transmit Diversity for Backscatter RFID  “By adjusting the phase of the signal transmitted from each reader antenna to cancel the phase delay of the channel, the signals from each antenna add constructively at the RF tag; hence, the power delivered to the RF tag is maximized. This technology can improve the read range and reliability for radio frequency RF tags in applications with time-varying channels — e.g., backscatter sensors operating near moving people or where radio frequency identification (RFID) tags cannot be confined to a portal.”
  • Geolocation  “Drawbacks of GPS are high battery consumption and the need for a clear view of the sky, making it impractical in indoor areas, tree-covered zones, or similar environments where obstacles shadow the GPS signals. Approaches using the cellular network are not reliable and precise enough. In this project, we develop a station identity management system that preserves base station location privacy. The objective is to allow only authorized parties to obtain the locations of guests.”
  • Multi-channel Acoustic Data Transmission to Ad-hoc Mobile Phone Arrays  “For example, events in a movie can trigger additional and assisting information to appear on a phone’s display. This is particularly attractive when there is no need for a wireless infrastructure. Avoiding the need for a dedicated wireless infrastructure, the movie (or show) can directly interact with phones in the audience, independently of the local resources.”
  • Visible Light Communication  “We call this concept Visible Light Communication (VLC) with LED-to-LED networking. Significant research contributions have been achieved by Disney Research in the area of networked systems for VLC. VLC creates opportunities for low-cost, safe, and environmentally friendly wireless communication solutions.”

Disney fact:
Disney Research is “an informal network of research labs that collaborate closely with academic institutions such as Carnegie Mellon University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zürich” that was launched in 2008, two years after The Walt Disney Company acquired Pixar Animation Studios and their technology assets.