With the ‘Traveling Virtual Pet Game System’ (U.S. Patent Application 20110070935), inventor Damon R. Beggs hopes to bring the perpetual successes of the virtual pet into the 21st century, allowing it to travel the world (and beyond) all while in the palm of your hand.
Noting that the term pet is used loosely (it could be a person, ghost, yeti or unicorn as much as it could be a puppy or kitten), the non-platform-specific system describes a method for allowing an owner to care for their pet by traditional means (feeding, playing, etc.) while adding the ability for the pet to travel to foreign destinations, either with or without the physical aid of its owner. For example, when a pet is determined to be in Paris, France (either detected via GPS or simply told it is through a menu), it can visually visit the Eiffel Tower, develop a taste for crepes and even learn various phrases in French (either on its own, or through the assistance of the owner and a microphone). It can also learn activities associated with its hosted locale, such as Flamenco dancing in Spain. These experiences will be learned by the pet who will continue to maintain these experiences and preferences as it continues traveling elsewhere.
The system allows for the transfer of pets between owners, so that an owner can temporarily adopt a pet and expose it to the owner’s personal geographic environment and then release it to share with another owner, or a pet may simply opt to leave an owner if it is not cared for properly.
For those interested in reading more on the patent application, we have provided it in PDF format for your enjoyment here.
Whether your clothing shop is planning on an extravagant ‘Christmas in July’ pre-winter sale, you’re creating a new theme park attraction or perhaps even a Ski Lodge DVC resort, consider this new patent for Disney Enterprises which looks at creating a flooring system that simulates natural environments such as snow.
Citing issues with existing simulated snow systems such as fabricated snow which requires keeping indoor temperatures unacceptably low or fake snow which requires high maintenance and continuously faces the threats of foot traffic, the new system as invented by Daniel M. Joseph (U.S. Patent # 7,883,425 B2) works when ‘force applied to the floor system by a user walking across the system results in force being communicated to the confinement member through the disturbing agent layers through the plurality of discrete contact points causes portions of the aggregate proximate to the contact points shift, resulting in vibrations and sounds that simulate the sound and feel of walking on snow.’
In other words, if it feels like walking on snow and it sounds like walking on snow, it’s probably Disney magic.
If you’re interested in reading the patent, or just enjoy looking at illustrations of flooring, it’s available here
Watch a few hours of the Food Network or The Learning Channel and it becomes clear that cake decorating is big business nowadays. Regular folk are willing to shell out thousands of dollars on special occasions to receive hand-sculpted, personalized baked goods that often appear to defy the laws of physics. Extreme elements can include non-edible elements added to the cake such as LEDs or moving parts designed to produce oohs and ahhs from the audience about to eat it.
So says a new patent application from Disney Enterprises titled ‘Projector systems and methods for producing digitally augmented, interactive cakes and other Food Products.’ Created by Charita Y. Carter, Charita Y, Mark Raymond Mine, Modupe Adeleye, Christopher Raynard Runco, Thomas Fraiser Laduke and Bei Yang, the interactive cake makes extensive use of a projector.
That is to say where most see a delicious dessert, Disney Imagineers see a projection screen where a moving image can be projected onto the cake to offer a unique dining experience. The patent application, however, goes way beyond showing a simple movie. Rather there are varying levels of interactivity, particularly when coupled with a computer which can dynamically generate images based on how individuals are interacting with the cake. The system would be capable of detecting the topography of a cake which essentially means that if a slice were to be cut out, it could detect the missing piece and respond appropriately. For example, cut out a slice where there’s a simulated lake and you may instantly create a waterfall in which water is now represented as flowing down the sides of the new missing cake portion. Additionally, props and specially coded utensils could trigger events such as Tinker Bell flying around the cake and leaving a trail of pixie dust when someone waves a wand in front of the cake. Perhaps Captain Hook would instantly appear and draw his sword, preparing for battle, as someone approaches the cake with a knife.
You’ll be able to find more sordid details and examples inside the patent application available here.
Let’s face it, audio animatronic figures are just a passing fad. Sure they look and move in realistic fashions, even so much as being able to appear to walk steps or be able to twirl a lasso, but it all comes at a high cost — literally and figuratively. They’re expensive to design and create, require expensive maintenance and heavy and large platforms and have extremely limited mobility. And that’s coming from one of the leaders in robotic development at Disney Research, Lanny Smoot. Smoot, Imagineer Gary Schnuckle and Timothy Caldwell are the driving forces behind a new patent application which seeks out the next generation of reliable, consistent, automated performances and they just might have found the answer for 2010 in technology whose origins have been traced as far back as 2000 B.C. — marionettes.
Now we aren’t talking about marionettes in the traditional sense, because that just wouldn’t be patent-worthy or (let’s be honest) time-worthy. We are talking about bringing the traditional art form to a much larger scale. Life-size puppets attached to several strings, manipulating their every move on a full-size stage in front of a live audience. Up until now, the closest performances have come to being able to provide this form of entertainment is the Japanese art of Bunkaru in which the puppeteers wear all black to blend in with the background so that their large puppets appear to move on their own without any sort of human intervention – almost.
The patent application, titled ‘Robotic Marionettes on Magnetically-Supported and Highly Mobile Puppeteer Platforms,’ describes a system in which the life-size marionettes are attached to a device called the puppeteer vehicle. The puppeteer vehicle, in turn, is magnetically attached to the tender vehicle, the two of which being separated by a thin membrane of sorts, which essentially amounts to a physical ceiling to the set. The tender vehicle on top of the membrane/ceiling is programmed to move in specific positions (most likely controlled wirelessly) and drags the puppeteer vehicle with it via the magnetic connection. The puppeteer vehicle, in turn, contains all the mechanical elements to be able to manipulate the large puppets. In certain cases, such as the case of eye movement, robots can be installed on the puppet itself, providing some of the benefits of animatronics/robotics to the anti-technological puppet.
Applying the technology to the traditional art of marionette puppetry has an immediate two-fold benefit. Firstly, while the puppets might be able to walk (or fly) across a large stage with humans in control, they are limited in the Z axis. That is, they could never negotiate the difference between up stage and down stage. Because of the thin membrane which requires no strings to pass through it, the magnetic system would allow the puppets to walk towards and away from the audience. Second, and more importantly, the system allows for the puppets to approach and interact with each other without risking the puppets colliding and/or strings becoming entangled. Although robotic systems have been developed to manipulate the puppets, it’s impossible to have multiple puppets move around each other because of the physical nature of the robotic arms themselves.
Sorry, Pinocchio, but you’ve had your fun.
We have a couple of interesting patent applications from Disney Enterprises to share with you today, although the first one up, arguably the more interesting of the two, is not the lightest read imagineable.
Probably the most difficult aspect of digesting this patent application is that all the talk of water constantly makes us need to visit the bathroom, but out of jest, it appears that this could be some of the technology behind the new World of Color show at Disney California Adventure.
In Fluid Effects Platform with a Pivotally-Mounted and Remotely-Positioned Output Manifold, inventors Evelyn Wiseman, Theodore Carlsson, Jennifer Magill, Michael Layman, William Slusser, Jason Badger, Matthew Cotter and Charles Davis take a look at existing systems used to create water fountain shows and seek to improve upon them.
Some of the key features of the new system is a more compact, yet more versatile ‘fluid effects assembly’ which essentially allows for lighter platforms (for raising the system above the water when needed), allows the liquid to be projected in a wider arc and allows the nozzle(s) to be centered back to their home position remotely rather than having maintenance make a physical adjustment at the system itself. It should also be noted that the system explicitly covers all types of fluids — not just water — which includes the ability to disperse flammable liquids as well (oops! bathroom time again).
The other patent application we’d like to take a look at is something we must confess sounded a bit odd when we had first started reading it, but it all eventually began to sink in and (naturally) the drawings didn’t hurt.
It’s no denying that the Dance Dance Revolution format of gaming isn’t going away and Disney has certainly provided its fair share of entries into that genre, but now inventors Joseph Vance, Daniel Tyrrell, Matthew Allmer, Michael McAnaney and Sean Krankel are looking to turn that familiar gaming experience around — literally.
With the use of accelerometers and the like on the rise in gaming controllers such as the Nintendo Wii Remote, Sony PlayStation Move and Microsoft’s Nata — er, Kinect, it almost seems naturally that they be taken advantage of in a dancing game scenario. Enter the Dance Ring Video Game in which the player, equipped with multiple controllers, now seeks to use all of his/her limbs as opposed to just jumping on a mat. Instead of a vertical flow in which the items to match fall down the screen to cue the player, in this incarnation, the indicators stem from a 360 degree play area which is broken up into multiple segments. The indicators flow outwards from the center of the ring to one of the areas and the player must respond in kind by moving the right body part in the right way.
When it rains, it pours; now it’s raining cats and dogs and we just stepped in a poodle. Unfortunately there’s no web rim shot patent to share with you today, but out of several patent applications we came across from Disney Enterprises this morning, there’s a few we thought were worth sharing with you all. You can thank us later since there’s no patent here for instant gratuity either.
First up is a patent whose fruit will be very familiar to most of us by now as it played a part in the famous Talking Mickey Mouse episode although you may not recognize it at first.
From inventors Tim Eck, William Wiedefeld, David Hynds, Jeffrey Schenck, William Brasher and Brendan MacDonald comes a new take on a new classic: the articulated character heads. This is not the original patent that covers the heads featured in the stage shows at the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks, but rather a newer type of head/system that makes the interactive character scenario more plausible.
Titled ‘Method and System for Articulated Character Head Actuation and Control,’ the patent application is two-fold. First, it attempts to seek out the first major problem with the now-antiquated heads: noise. According to the patent, even when the old heads weren’t actually moving, they were prone to generating an audible standby noise. It appears that by ‘simply’ upgrading the quality of the motors and servos et al, that the noise is minimized to a whisper-quiet level, allowing the heads to safely articulate even in close environments with audience members (guests).
There’s just no denying the success of video games like Guitar Hero and Rock Band (even to the point of successful ports to the iPhone), but when it comes right down to it, they’re nothing like playing actual instruments. Instead, the plastic ‘guitar’ one holds is nothing more than a glorified typical video game controller with a bunch of colored buttons. Hardly beneficial to anyone who wishes to learn the real thing.
It is far less fun to actually learn to play an instrument because the lessons haven’t changed all that much through the years. Boring repetition is the key. Although there have been some attempts to try to make the process more fun, they’re just unable to compete with the constantly evolving video console form of entertainment.
So what if one were to take the best of each of these worlds and combine them, creating an edutainment environment in which one playing an actual musical instrument was learning to play while capitalizing on the success and genuine fun of the rhythm games? That’s what inventors Jieun Kim, Jon Guerr, Jr Desouza and Chris Heatherly believe they have in a new patent application titled ‘System and Method for Providing an Edutainment Interface for Musical Instruments.’
Primarily using the guitar (but leaving the option option for alternative fretted instruments), the patent allows the device to connect to the gaming console (in whatever form it takes) and use the traditional MIDI interface to relay the player’s movements back to the game. The game is in the form of the traditional rhythm type game in which elements appear to move down the screen in a virtual 3D environment. Using the visual indicators on the screen, the player would position his/her fingers along the fretboard and strum the particular string. In response, the gaming console would respond with feedback in regards to whether the proper note was played and the timing of the note, possibly complete with its own scoring system.
For those interested, we present the patent application.
Today a finger scan facilitates your entry into one of the Disney theme parks, but in the age of tomorrow, it may help to quench your thirst. So suggests a new patent application from Disney which describes a ‘Self-Service Beverage and Snack Dispensing Using Identity-Based Access Control’ system.
Calling out shortcomings in existing systems such as customers being able to obtain unlimited refills from self-serve beverage dispensers (as Walt Disney World has introduced to a limited number of counter service dining locations) to potential concerns with the Refillable Mugs currently available for purchase at the Walt Disney World Resorts (such as losing the mug, toting the mug back and forth and cleanliness issues), the proposed system allows for either unlimited or controlled refills with any cup/vessel using token-based authentication.
For example, a guest at the Contemporary Resort may be able to purchase the unlimited refill package and simply authenticate to the refill station using their Key to the World card. Using RFID with read/write capabilities, the system could also potentially record and limit the number of times a drink is refilled by a particular guest. Of course the existing system is already open to exploitation by guests who bring back the mugs across several trips or even use their own unofficial beverage containers, so the proposed system really appears to close the existing loopholes more than serve the health needs of the Resort’s guests.
On the flip side, the patent application also calls for a snack vending machine that can use the same sort of token-based authentication to serve up its products. So for example, the vending machine down the hall from your hotel room could potentially be configured to accept the Disney Dining Plan in addition to dollar bills and coins.
You can check out the patent application here.
There was little surprise yesterday about how quickly the YouTube video of a Talking Mickey character test at Disneyland garnered attention, turning just a few dozen views from when we first reported it to tens of thousands less than a day later, but realizing that there would have to at least be a patent application somewhere before the technology was debuted, we set out to find the source of the marveling magic.
But nothing could have prepared us for the shock when we discovered that not only was there an application in place, but an actual patent had in fact been granted — in 1994. Yes, while everyone you knew was at the movies watching The Lion King, inventors Michael I. Savic, Seow-Hwee Tan and Il-Hyun Nam had created something still portrayed in film and television as sci-fi future tech and had already trained their sights on the world’s most beloved character and the voice of his creator.
‘In 1928 Mickey Mouse was introduced to the public… Walt Disney, who created Mickey Mouse, was also the voice of Mickey Mouse,’ the patent begins. ‘Consequently, when Walt Disney died in 1966 the world lost a creative genius and Mickey Mouse lost his voice.’
Perhaps encouraged by the loss of another creative visionary, Mel Blanc (a.k.a the man of a thousand voices) in 1989, Savic, Tan and Nam created the very thing we got out first look at this past week: a walking, talking theme park character which could — in real time — perfectly replicate the characteristics of any existing voice by transforming it on the fly.
The patent continues: ‘A need thus exists for a high quality voice transformation system that can convincingly transform the voice of any given source speaker to the voice of a target speaker. In addition to its use for motion picture and television productions, a voice transformation system would have great entertainment value. People of all ages could take great delight in having their voices transformed to those of characters such as Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck or even to the voice of their favorite actress or actor. Alternatively, an actor dressed in the costume of a character and imitating a character could be even more entertaining if he or she could speak the voice of the character.‘
Of course this leads to dozens of other questions. Why now? Why only this? Could it have been that Disney was simply waiting on the additional technology being used to come into its own? Or does the recent appointment of Bret Iwan as Wayne Allwine’s successor indicate that there was some initial hesitance on someone’s part to already make use of the technology in other areas? Can and should voice actors ever really be faithfully replaced by others who don’t possess or even need those same talents?
For your reading pleasure (if you enjoy reading code that is), we have attached U.S. Patent 5,327,521 here.
And speaking of patents and meet & greets, don’t forget how we took a look at another that may very well be used for a future Disney Fairies meet greet as part of the Fantasyland reboot.
Using a potential combination of RFID and/or ultra-wide band (UWB) technologies, US Patent #,7671,802 provides a method for tracking the on-field locations of athletes and sports equipment (including fast-moving and rapid direction-changing items such as hockey pucks) in real-time.
Distinguishing itself from former like-minded applications, the key to the success of the patent — appropriately titled Active Player Tracking — is redundancy and fault tolerance. For example, instead of an athlete having just one RFID chip embedded in his/her helmet, shirt or other part of the uniform, there would be two or more chips to help identify the athlete in multiple locations so that in the event of something such as transmission blockage, the alternate chip(s) will be able to broadcast the athlete’s or sports device’s location. In addition, the patent calls for enough receivers to cover the field so that an athlete can be tracked by three of them at any time to triangulate their position, but that there should be more receivers than necessary, each one being able to be manually addressed to be activated/de-activated as needed, for fault tolerance.
You can view the patent here.