In October the New York Times reported that several new initiatives were underway at Disney to finally get their online business to stop bleeding cash. One idea includes another massive redesign of Disney.com, their third in five years. But another sounds far more radical. According to Robert Iger, Disney's chief executive, one of their new products is an ambitious and unannounced gaming initiative that is code-named Toy Box. The initiative is reported to involve a gaming console with extensive mobile and other online applications including various Pixar and Disney characters that will be able to interact with each other for the first time. The New York Times then asked the question: "Could Disney ever create a game machine, one that would sit side by side, and even compete, with Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft's offerings?" The New York Times concludes their report by reasoning that "given Disney's ties with Pixar, which is also connected to Apple, which certainly has aspirations of their own, it's not such a crazy idea if one truly thinks about it." Well, interestingly enough, Disney's gaming- console may in fact be real and our report points to that proof.
While we can't independently verify Apple's role in this initiative, we can verify that the US Patent Office has just published Disney's patent application for a new mobile gaming platform with cloud connectivity, GPS and mobile skyhook location sensing technologies.
Disney's patent pending gaming console has a very strong 3D augmented reality slant to it. For example, Disney states that an augmented reality mobile device could capture a series of images of a coffee cup sitting on top of a table, modify the series of images so that the coffee cup appears as an animated cartoon character and display the modified series of images in real-time to a user. As such, when the user looks at the augmented reality device, the user sees an augmented view of the physical real-world environment in which the user is located.
Unfortunately the patent is overly focused on the technology related to augmented reality aspect of the console and doesn't provide us with much of a sense of what kind of games that we could expect from this device. If Disney has a killer app for this device, their patent filing certainly doesn't spill the beans.
While it's true that Apple's late CEO Steve Jobs was Disney's largest shareholder after his sale of Pixar and that Apple has hinted in a number of patents that they may expand their push into video gaming, there's still no definitive proof as of yet to connect Apple to this project. At the moment we're just left with The New York Time's speculation. Though if they got the first part of this equation right, could there be something to their speculation about Apple's role in this? And if Disney really wanted to have the very best mobile device experience for Toy Box, wouldn't they turn to Apple because of their historic ties? On one side, logic would say yes, while the other side says no because Apple isn't known for their joint ventures save for the Nike + iPod initiative. Could a new joint venture be in the wind with Disney?
One last point is that Disney's patent filing states that "Examples of operating system include UNIX." Could that technically be their way of hiding OS X as the OS behind Toy Box? Other operating system considerations noted in Disney's filing include Microsoft's Windows, Nintendo DS and Sony PSP.
At the end of the day, what are your thoughts on the rumored Toy Box mobile gaming device? Is it possible that the late Steve Jobs worked on this project with Disney's Iger? Send in your comments below.