ACM - Computers in Entertainment

Toshiba's NAND flash utilized in unique entertainment application for voice and control of theme park animatronic robots

By Rachel Kaseroff
Theoretical and Practical Computer Applications in Entertainment, [Vol. 1, No. 1]

DOI: 10.1145/950566.950576

Demonstrating the versatility of applications development for its NAND flash product line, Toshiba America Electronic Components, Inc. (TAEC) announced on July 14, 2003 that its NAND flash technology has been designed into various sound, lighting, and motion controller systems from Simon Kaloi Engineering, Ltd. These systems are being used to add audio, movement and lighting control to various theme park animatronics characters and dark rides throughout the world. High quality digital audio recordings as well as control and lighting information are all stored in together in Toshiba's solid-state NAND flash memory. Multiple audio messages and control and lighting cues can be triggered instantaneously in numerous ways such as ride cars passing through sensors or from interactive laser guns firing at targets. The sequences and interactive triggering can be programmed into the NAND flash memory within seconds using Simon-Kaloi Software and a standard PC. NAND flash is used to store up to 256 tracks for up to eight channels of digital audio along with synchronous control of multiple characters and effects as well as scenic lighting information. The use of NAND flash technology is an advancement for theme park dark rides because it has no moving parts to wear out while providing the ability to change the message and control information.

Previously the audio and motion control were handled by multiple pieces of equipment utilizing tapes, CD ROMs or laser disks for information storage and playback. The Simon-Kaloi systems combine multiple functions into a single unit substantially reducing the massive wire schemes and amount of equipment typically required with a more cost effective and reliable integrated solution. The all solid-state design in the Simon Kaloi systems, including the NAND flash memory, completely eliminates the mechanisms found in tapes, CD ROMs and laser disks. This solid-state approach allows for instantaneous and random access trigger response that was not possible with older mechanical technologies. It also enables the audio, control, and lighting information to be in precise synchronization.

"We chose Toshiba's NAND flash technology because of its incredible density and that it also gives us flexibility in recording and playing. NAND flash memory is a cost-effective, convenient and reliable memory solution that could take the wear and tear of daily use plus it provides a medium we could write to," said Rick Simon, CFO at Simon Kaloi. "We use Toshiba's NAND flash products in almost all of our systems and plan to continue to design future applications using their technology."

"It's amazing what an ideal solution our NAND flash technology is for theme park animatronics applications, and we're thrilled that the innovative designers at Simon Kaloi realized the advantages of using NAND," said Scott Nelson, business development director of memory products at TAEC. "Toshiba pioneered the development of flash memory and we are committed to continuing to reduce the cost-per-bit of NAND flash, and to continue to advance flash memory performance to enable the next leading edge application."

"With a thousand people per hour standing in line to view a new ride, we have to have very high reliability and believe our most important assets are tucked away in the memory we use," said Howard Kelley, president of Sally Corporation. "We've been able to make significant advancements in functionality and quality by using solid state memory. NAND flash technology introduces amazing flexibility that allows us to reproduce or program offline and literally send the whole program via mail or email."

The most recent utilization of the technology is in a dark ride developed by Sally Corporation for Six Flags Belgium called "Challenge of Tutankhamon" that features 16 different elaborate scenes in a 4 1/2 minute ride. The control of the lighting, motion and sound of each scene is performed by the NAND flash used in the SLAM 2000 controller system from Simon Kaloi. Sally Corporation utilizes the products from Simon Kaloi to design all its dark rides and animatronics which are seen in parks and attractions worldwide.

For additional company and product information, please visit TAEC's website at chips.toshiba.com. For technical inquiries, please e-mail [email protected]

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