2013 welcomed a new attraction to the Walt Disney World Resort. No it is not a ride, but a new way to enjoy some of the Disney Parks. “Glow with the Show,” as its called, brings light up LED mouse ears. The ears can light up depending on the area of the park or show. I was last down in the Magic Kingdom on Friday and picked up a set. I have been wondering what makes these guys tick ever since I first heard about them from Disneyland.
First off, these are not the traditional beanie caps you can buy in the park. They fit more like a helmet with quite a bit of padding to hide the battery box. As you can see above removing the padding reveals the battery box and plastic support for the ears. The ears are attached via 1 screw and 1 rivet. This made them super hard to remove, and in the end, I never actually got it off.
Popping the plastic facing off the ears revealed a large tricolor LED (no surprise) and another smaller LED. My friend Matt did some searching online and discovered it was a 940 nm LED. This is probably used for inter-ear communication between different headsets.
The other ear (above) revealed another tricolor LED, but also an IR Receiver. Both ears contain a flexible PCB and go into the central part of the beanie cap.
Inside, the two flexible PCBs are attached to a central main rigid PCB. This is vary different from earlier models. The board has only a few test pads and is marked version 1.5. As you can see, getting to the PCB was hard due to the support plastic in the way. I had to cut the beanie open to get to it and then pop off a plastic cover. The PCB is held in place by a couple of plastic rivets that I was able to easily remove.
With the PCB out, it is also clear to see this revision uses a mechanical switch. The original Disneyland version had a capacitive button on the ears. (Probably for cost savings and simplicity.) You can see the switch connected to the red and white wires. This also means a physical disconnect between the PCB and battery. The switch is held in by a couple of screws and came out easily.
The photo above shows the electronics, cut free from their housing and battery box. The overall length is about 6 inches. A forward direction is marked on all the PCBs, indicating that direction does matter (even if the user doesn’t wear it correctly). The MCU is a TI MSP430. TI knows a thing or two when it comes to low power and that makes sense with this device that should a full day in the parks. (The ears blink randomly if there is no signal received.)
All said and done, this teardown took a bit more effort than I expected. There was a ton of foam to remove and in the end, I still had to cut the top off the hat. As you can see above, just a few tools were used. Special thanks to my friend Matt for looking up all the parts. Now time to see what I can do with! Lucky for me, the control codes have been cracked and it should be just as simple as implementing an IR transmitter.