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Microsoft Researchers Develop 3D Passive ID Tags
The InfraStruct system, currently in prototype, would use terahertz signals to identify an object via unique 3D shapes or hollowed sections built into its structure.
Willis and Wilson have created five prototype tag designs, each scanned with a different imaging configuration. The designs include unique tag locations within an object, differing tag geometries—how it is positioned and oriented inside the object—or the manufacture of a series of layers with shapes and patterns that can be identified via the THz scan. The two men also developed a variety of manufacturing methods by which the identifiers could be embedded in the object, including the use of additive fabrication with InfraStruct tags added to hollow internal areas of the item, or a subtractive method in which laser or vinyl cutters are used to remove raw material from the form in order to create a particular shape.
The researchers employed several off-the-shelf THz emitter-receivers, including Picometrix's T-Ray 4000 model. The team has also developed the software that analyzes the transmissions reflected from a scan of each item, and then links the results to a specific object.
However, Willis says, commercial use of the technology may take some time to begin. Most current fabrication techniques would not easily accommodate the tag creation processes, he notes, adding that scanners are currently expensive, but that prices would drop if they were used in large volumes. "I could see this going to market in a basic form very quickly," he states, "but it is going to be sometime before the price point drops to a level that is accessible for a larger market."
Willis and Wilson presented their findings this week at SIGGRAPH 2013, an international conference and exhibition focused on computer graphics and interactive techniques, in Anaheim, Calif. According to Willis, the audience consisted primarily of individuals in the graphics technology community.
Uses cases could simply involve the tracking of goods moving through the plant where they are manufactured, Willis says, or at a warehouse or store. The technology could also be used in customized game accessories, allowing a gaming console to identify a particular accessory, thereby personalizing the user experience. In the future, he adds, robots could utilize the technology to recognize specific objects.
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