Recently, a team of researchers formerly of the University of Virginia launched a company that’s working on a way to connect to the Internet through light bulbs. Essentially, LEDs would use light waves, instead of radio waves, to send signals to devices in your home. The Li-Fi concept has been around a while, floated for use in hospitals and airplanes and other places radio waves aren’t welcome, but Disney wants to put it to use for more sophisticated toys.
Disney researchers want to use “visible light communication” in a variety of interesting capacities, from making a story’s text appear on a tablet to turning on flashing lights in a princess dress using an LED magic wand. Thanks to a unique property of LEDs, not shared by incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, they can be turned off and their intensity modulated at very high speeds. With the right equipment, other LEDs can detect these changes, though the human eye cannot. In this way, the visible light acts as a signal between the two devices.
In a video, Disney shows a couple ways it could use VLC. Light bulbs could communicate with toys, setting off the lights and siren of a miniature ambulance. The same toy could also talk to a tablet or smartphone, as well as other cars. Of course, if the toy is communicating with a bulb, that means playtime is definitely over when the lights go out.
There are lots of other possibilities for Li-Fi as LEDs become cheaper and more commonplace, like a store’s bulbs sending a signal to your smartphone when a nearby item goes on sale, as Gizmodo points out. More notifications on our phones is definitely not something we look forward to, but that princess dress would make one awesome Halloween costume.