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RFID Scores Game Show by the Seat of Contestants' Pants

Oh Sit! uses RFID tags and readers from RFID Inc. and PTP to automate scoring in an extreme version of musical chairs.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 28, 2012On a new television game show known as Oh Sit!, contestants must overcome a variety of obstacles (as well as each other) in an extreme version of the old children's game, musical chairs. Each chair has a specific cash prize associated with it, so it was vital for the producers to be able to track which contestants sat in which chairs. Which technology did they choose? Bing, bing, bing—radio frequency identification. Correct!

The show features an obstacle course encircling a set of chairs, with music playing in the background. Once the music stops, contestants must scramble for a seat, and the person left standing is then eliminated. In addition, a different cash value is associated with each chair, with the values hidden from players. The contestant sitting in the chair of least value is booted off the show as well.

Oh Sit! contestants face a gantlet of challenges, including the barrel roll. When the music stops, they must scramble to sit in the RFID-enabled chairs located in the middle of the obstacle course.

Since the chair-seating portion earns the contestants cash and secures their win or loss, it is important that the program's staff know who sat in a particular seat first, even if several people aim for that chair simultaneously. So the producers of the series, which airs on Wednesday evenings on the CW Television Network, needed a method of determining who sat in a chair first, and to capture that data.

The producers chose a radio frequency identification solution codeveloped by Aurora, Colo.-based RFID Inc. and Santa Clarita, Calif.-based Pacific Technical Products (PTP). Passive low-frequency (LF) 125 kHz tags (model 1770) from RFID Inc. were sewn into the participants' pants. Each tag transmits a unique ID number to RFID Inc.'s 5130 readers, with custom antennas built into each of 10 specially designed chairs, according to James Heurich, RFID Inc.'s president. The TV program's own software links the tag's ID to the participant, and the reader to a chair with a specific cash prize, and then calculates the amount of money that each contestant won, based on his or her seating choice.

Oh Sit!'s technical staff first began working with RFID Inc. this past spring, approximately six weeks prior to the show's taping. The original goal was to track when and how often each contestant completed a lap around the obstacle course, as well as when he or she sat in a chair, and which chair was chosen.

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