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RFID Weaves a Tale With New Loom Technology

Loominary, designed by researchers at American University and the University of Central Florida, allows game players to control a story's plot and action using an RFID-enabled loom.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 20, 2017

University researchers have developed a way to marry old technology, weaving, with something much more modern—video games—in order to help players create stories. The game, known as Loominary, employs RFID technology to link the ancient practice of weaving to an interactive, computer-based game that follows the life of Medusa, a monster of ancient Greek mythology.

Loominary has been exhibited at several venues, and is now available to game developers on an open-source platform. It consists of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID-tagged yarn shuttles, with antennas built into a loom to capture each time a shuttle is used to weave yarn through the tapestry. (The shuttle is an apparatus on which yarn is wrapped; the yarn is then threaded between the warp threads held under tension by the loom).

Antennas are built into a loom to capture each time a shuttle is used to weave yarn through the tapestry.
The tabletop loom has a Linksprite Cottonwood TTL UART Long Range UHF RFID reader built into it with a single antenna, says Josh McCoy, an assistant professor in the computer science and cinema and digital media departments at UC Davis, in the area of games technology. He is also a hardware designer and producer of Loominary.

Each loom is designed to allow users to weave a tapestry that is typically the width of a scarf and can be woven at any length. The loom is cabled to a Raspberry Pi 2 Model B computer running Loominary's software, which interprets read data and links that information to Twine software that displays a story on a screen.

Loominary uses technology to help bring traditional stories to today's audiences, while offering a broad range of experiences, including participating in the storytelling. According to the company, it brings a traditionally male-centered story to underrepresented groups, including women. The software enabling the storytelling was designed to be compatible with Microsoft's Windows IoT software platform.

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