Five years in development, Walt Disney's new interactive tour guide Pal Mickey operates off of an infrared wireless network that transmits information in order to help it triangulate its location and speak the appropriate audio message. (The receiver is in Mickey's nose.) The choice of infrared may seem surprising, given the need for line of sight and difficulties coping with direct sunlight (think crowded theme park in the Sunshine State). But Leslie Hartog, project manager for Pal Mickey, says that the entertainment giant is using a new, patent-pending outdoor infrared technology developed by its own engineers. "Even in bright sunlight, the technology is powerful enough that the toy will pick up the signals," explains Hartog. "Also, they bounce off of things like concrete and clothing." She says that Disney engineers actually preferred to use infrared over radio because of the greater accuracy and short transmission distances. The signals consist of mainly simple codes, with Pal Mickey having most of the smarts. In fact, it's programmed to speak some 700 different messages. As for delivering customized messages or using Pal Mickey to perform true traffic control in the park, though, Product Developer Kyle Poor says that's not in the plans—just yet.
George Leopold's talk at last week's Design & Manufacturing Minneapolis helped restore astronaut and engineer Gus Grissom's role in the beginnings of NASA, and outlined how Grissom played a pivotal role in winning the Space Race.
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