Microsoft Research creates new interactive work ID badge

Many people work in offices that require them to wear or hold some kind of ID card. Usually it just has your name, title and photo on a piece of plastic – but what if such a badge could have many more functions?

A Microsoft Research team based in Cambridge have just announced a new project with the rather long title "An Interactive Belt-worn Badge with a Retractable String-based Input Mechanism." A post on the Microsoft Research blog describes a device as having small LCD screen that can be attached to a belt loop via a string, which makes it quicker to access than pulling out a smartphone from a pants pocket.

The badge, shown above, is seen in a video  demoing how it can display a 2D map of the campus where an employee works. The badge can be moved horizontally to pan through the current floor or moved vertically to show the map layout on other floors.

Microsoft Research team member Steve Hodges states that while the form factor and content of such an interactive ID badge still needs some development, there's a potentially large audience for such a product. He states, "So many people already wear a badge on a regular basis—in offices, hospitals, or schools and universities—yet they are currently just pieces of plastic with static images on them. Let’s turn them into interactive devices!"

Source: Microsoft Research | Image via Microsoft

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Microsoft to hold free Xbox Live Gold weekend for UK

Next Story

Original 'Angry Birds' re-released for Windows Phone, free until May 15


Commenting is disabled on this article.


This is a very interesting research prototype. The string-based input mechanism is particular clever, but I feel it is a bit limited. For example, at my employer all personnel wear badges, but not everyone carries theirs on their belt. Some employees wear them on lanyards, clip them to a pocket, etc. Thus, the distance the string is going to rotate is going to vary a bit. Plus, there's also the issue of variable heights, reaches and positions one might use a badge from, which would generate widely-varying readings for the same activity. There's also the issue of reliability and cost for the string and spooling mechanism.

It would also be interesting to see this device implement existing smartcard and RFID technologies in addition to the hardware sensors mentioned in the paper, as well as integration with other devices (smartphone, tablet, PC?) via Bluetooth LE.

I have to admit this prototype reminds me a lot of the Starfish REX PDA platform, which was a PCMCIA card with a LCD screen, membrane buttons and, in its final incarnation (after Xircom acquired them), a touchscreen. Pretty cool device.

I, think, though, that this is a fantastic idea from Microsoft Research and I would really like to see them expand the technology in the future.


Aryeh Goretsky

I know. Who would read a piece of electronic that hangs on your chest?
Template is out of style. Black/White LCD are very boring! Anymore?

EDIT: How much a business is going to spend just to fed each and everyone, and what if brakes? lol

So a company is going to buy very expensive, LCD badges, that need recharging, replacing, etc, for all their employees to provide less functionality than a smart phone app could? Ya, I don't see that happening. I respect the idea of research coming up with cool ideas, but this is just dumb.