Disney Patent Gives Insight into Possible ‘NextGen’ Character Meet & Greet Experiences

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Pages of banter and speculation have arisen from the photo of the model of the new Fantasyland Fantasy Forest expansion at the Magic Kingdom ever since we first brought it to you (incidentally, you can see a close-up of the model’s Sleeping Beauty cottage in the spring 2010 issue of D23 magazine). Much of which has to do with the plans for Pixie Hollow, for which the model shows an attraction similar to a new one coming to Disney’s California Adventure, but some say said plans have since been scrapped in favor of a ‘next generation,’ interactive meet & greet with the Disney fairies.

Fuel for this speculation can also be found in this Inside Walt Disney Imagineering video released by Disney Parks back in August. You’ll find the element in question in the 2:16 – 2:22 range in which Tink herself makes an appearance.

So what is it? Thanks to newly granted US patent #7652824, we may just have been provided the answer.

The patent, titled System and/or method for combining images, looks at ways to ‘plus’ a very aged but still convincing theatrical effect known as Pepper’s ghost, which is often used in existing Disney attractions, most notably the Haunted Mansion. However, the patented system takes Pepper’s ghost well into the 21st century making use of computers to dynamically generate the interactive images and backgrounds that can be superimposed onto the reflective surface the guest is viewing, which also undoubtedly builds on existing technology used for Stitch and Crush interactive interactions already in the parks.

Essentionally this means that the next time you see Tinker Bell, she may literally appear right before your eyes. Allowing the physical elements to be dynamically moved, Tink can appear to be flying next to you or even in front and behind you. And that’s just the tip of the virtual iceberg.

Not only will you be able to vocally interact with Tink, but sophisticated sensors and technology will allow Tink to be able to dynamically determine how many guests are in the room with you, focus on various physical aspects of yours and follow your movements. She’ll literally be able to look you (or another member in your group) in the eye. She’ll be able to appear to touch you, interact in different ways such as visually appearing to place virtual Mouse Ears on your head (if you aren’t wearing them already) and more. She can even grow or shrink dynamically to be more suitable to your own (automatically determined) height. She may also be able to dynamically interact with physical objects such as laser pointers or bluetooth enabled devices.

Of course this is just one possible implementation of the patent. It can easily be adapted to shows or attractions, so there’s no telling where this technology may dynamically appear.

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