Panasonic cameras find children's stars at Give Kids the World Village

Non-profit resort for children with life-threatening illnesses uses company's technology to track locations of personalized stars


SECAUCUS, NJ (October 5, 2011) – Children battling a life-threatening illness are given a magical multimedia experience at Give Kids The World Village (GKTW) with the participation of Panasonic video surveillance solutions. Panasonic high-definition pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) cameras deliver a high-definition video element for the exciting experience, which is built around the positioning and unveiling of a commemorative “star” personalized by each child as a permanent reminder of his or her visit.

The “stars”, about an inch and a half in diameter, adorn the ceiling of the Star Tower, a new venue at Give Kids The World Village, a non-profit resort located in Kissimmee, Florida that provides cost-free, weeklong vacations for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families.

Children decorate and sign their commemorative stars, close their eyes, make a wish, and place each star into the Star Fairy’s chest. The next day, they return to find that their personalized star has joined the thousands of stars of other children on the Star Tower ceiling. But where is their star amid all the stars displayed up to 32 feet above them on the ceiling? Finding the star becomes a colorful interactive video game adventure and multi-media experience in which an iPad directs the child to point in the direction of his or her star. When the iPad is positioned correctly, a graphic image icon confirms the star has been found. Touching the icon enables the child to see a live video close-up of his or her star displayed on the iPad, provided by one of nine Panasonic PTZ megapixel cameras located within the walls of the Star Tower.

The iPad application uses the Panasonic i-PRO Smart HD WV-SC385, a Super Dynamic network dome camera that provides feature-rich pan-tilt-zoom control, 720p high-definition (HD) images, and superior low-light performance. Most importantly, the camera has the ability to repeatedly “map” the locations of its PTZ views based on internal software and a coordinate system relative to the camera's “home” position, which is calibrated at installation. Panasonic worked with developers of the Star Tower to make the coordinates available as part of a database that directs the iPad video game to each star's location. As each new star is attached to the ceiling in preparation for the unveiling, one of the nine cameras is directed manually to the position of the star, and the coordinates are recorded and saved.

Over the last 25 years, GKTW has partnered with wish granting organizations across the world to help fulfill the wishes of more than 110,000 children whose one desire was to visit the theme parks of Central Florida. GKTW provides accommodations for children with life-threatening illnesses and their families at its whimsical “storybook” resort, along with donated attraction tickets, meals, entertainment, transportation and much more.

“There is no better application for Panasonic cameras than to make wishes come true for children who are dealing with serious illness on a daily basis,” said Bill Taylor, President, Panasonic System Networks Company of America. “This unique application also helps to emphasize the versatility, reliability and higher resolution of Panasonic's SmartHD camera line.”

College students from the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) of Carnegie Mellon University designed the video game application, which included creating a virtual world inside the Star Tower that is calibrated to the exact physical position in which the iPad is being held. The game includes animated figures and interactive graphics and features the Star Fairy, who offers to show the child where their star is located. Children can also use the iPad to bring the inside of the tower to life with special effects, lighting changes and lively sounds including the bangs and whistles of fireworks. Carnegie Mellon's ETC was conceived by Randy Pausch, author of “The Last Lecture,” and co-founder Don Marinelli, with a goal of blending left brain (logical) and right brain (artistic) skills to prepare students for careers as artists, graphic designers, programmers and engineers.

ITEC Entertainment Corp. designed and supervised the creation of the Star Tower. An entertainment design company that has been involved in the design, installation and construction of theme park attractions all over the world, ITEC enthusiastically undertook this project as part of a 20-year history of work with Give Kids The World.

“The star program provides one of the most cherished memories for the families that stay with us at Give Kids The World,” said GKTW President Pam Landwirth. “This simple, yet poignant moment in a child’s visit has become a symbol of hope for so many. We are deeply grateful to our friends at Panasonic for helping us create this magical experience.” For more information, contact Panasonic by visiting www.panasonic.com/security.