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NFC Brings Music Mixing to DropMix Board Game

The game, from Hasbro and Harmonix Music Systems, allows players to create thousands of unique mixes based on popular songs, with the help of passive NFC RFID and Bluetooth technologies.
By Claire Swedberg

The board has a built-in reader containing an NXP chip, as well as antennas to capture the IDs of the card tags, as the cards are placed in one of five specific spaces on the board; each has its own dedicated antenna. The reader then forwards the tags' IDs to a phone running the DropMix app, prompting the playing of a song mix according to the NFC tag reads. The first card placed on the board launches the song's pace and key, and the additional cards then blend with it to create the music mix. Players can simply create music in freestyle mode, or set up competitive games.

To meet the high-volume needs for a consumer product, Paragon-ID needed to produce a large volume of high-quality cards, says Bertrand Brault, the company's marketing and business-development director. Playing cards can be printed and encoded at a rate of up to 15,000 units per hour, he says. The firm has been producing cards since May 2017, following nine months of development.

NXP's Alexander Rensink
The game itself required months of engineering to ensure it could operate seamlessly. "Our primary goal with DropMix was to provide an accessible, engaging musical experience to our players," Mintz says. "So, when looking at different options for tech, we knew that we needed to have fast response time with the potential to include an endless variety of distinct content."

Harmonix then intensively tested the game to ensure that it would work as intended. "We did a ton of playtesting," Mintz states, "to ensure that not only could players understand how the cards create and change the music, but also how to use the cards and board in the flow of gameplay."

Since the system was released, Mintz reports, "We're thrilled with how the game turned out. Watching that moment where players play that first card and realize how they're shaping the music is amazing." Paragon-ID has already produced cards in the multi-millions, Brault adds, using high-speed producing and encoding methods.

According to NXP, more games like DropMix, using NFC technology, are likely to be released during the coming years. "What we're seeing now is the cost levels driven down to the point where you can fit NFC technology into consumer products," Rensink says. In fact, he adds, "Gaming is an area where we've become very active."

Even beyond games, Rensink says, as the technology evolves and applications proliferate (along with the release of open NFC functionality in new iOS devices), "There's an enormous opportunity to make every consumer product smart," by tagging a particular product or item and connecting it directly to its tag via an NFC-enabled phone or other device.

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