Microsoft researchers in Cambridge, UK, and Redmond has developed a portable mat which can digitize physical real-life objects into the computer using NFC. This mat has the capability to locate, sense and communicate with objects as well as sense a user’s touch. So if you have a couple of toys around, you can just keep it on the mat, and they will be ported into the digital world. And this works with any display, and of course the software that talks with the mat.
Looking at the video, there seems to be huge scope, even though it has experimented with Toys and some board games. The idea here is that kids could interact with their actual toys, but take it to the next level when it goes to a screen. You can make an education board game which interacts with cards, learn new words, identify new objects, and so on.
The team also validated the Project Zanzibar research platform by sharing deployments with professional game developers and incorporated the resulting experiences in creating physical/digital hybrid games.
With the portability and flexibility of the Project Zanzibar mat and its ability to leverage the ubiquity of equally portable screen technology, combined with the prevalence of homes with screens conceivably in every room, the team feels the moment for TUIs is at hand.
The team also worked with ToyBox, which uses sound effects, audio dialogue, and other things to make the story look alive.The toybox includes figurines for different characters (pirates and naval officers), the combination and proximity of different characters on the mat triggers lines of dialogue from a story — for example, two pirates will banter if placed close to one another, while a pirate will hail an officer with a friendly challenge. Through its globally unique ID, each pirate toy is unique, building on its narrative with each play session.