How Disney Plans to Revolutionize the Theme Park Experience

You may recall a couple of years ago, the Magic Kingdom was ‘testing’ a very popular device called the Disney Magic Connection: a special cartridge locked into an otherwise-ordinary Nintendo DS that provided guests beta-testing the device the ability to know where the nearest facilities were based on location, estimated standby times for attractions and more. Many have since wondered what became of the project and we now have an idea.

Last week, a patent application from Disney Enterprises was published and although it describes the Disney Magic Connection system to a tee, what the application covers is ready to propel the entire theme park experience to a whole other level, integrating technology into virtually every aspect of even the most traditional element.

Essentially it describes a wireless device (or, as an example, an exisiting portable video game system with an expansion cartridge (hint, hint)) that relies on both infrared and wireless networks to provide a variety of services. Borrowing from the Pal Mickey technology, the infrared portion will receive a message at certain key points and instruct the device to announce a specific element already stored in its database, while the wireless aspect will provide dynamic updates, information and additional content. But enough with the boring details, let’s look at the device in action. Example:

Lilo and Stitch are visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Lilo wants to go shopping and watch High School Musical while Stitch wants to go ride the Tower of Terror. Using the devices, Lilo is guided to the nearest clothing store while Stitch is directed to the Tower of Terror, but he notices that the standby is much longer than he hoped, thanks to sensors placed inside the actual queue which accurately determine where the end of the line is. So instead, he opts for the single rider line in Rock’n’Roller Coaster. Meanwhile, High School Musical is about to begin and sensors embedded along the walking paths determine that it’s probably best Lilo starts moving along a particular route to make the show. She then sends a message to Stitch via the devices’ friends list and tells him where she’s at. Stitch, not keen on seeing the song and dance show, decides he’ll wait for Tower of Terror after all and while he’s waiting in queue, the device automatically feeds him games specific to the attraction or maybe trailers from upcoming Disney films, etc., to keep him entertained as he waits for the ride.

The show’s halfway over and Lilo gets an alert: it seems the Sci-Fi dine-in, which she is relatively nearby, has a lot of space available so the manager has decided to issue a virtual coupon via the device for 10% off the bill. So Lilo messages Stitch and asks him if he’d like to dine there. Of course he says yes, so Lilo makes the ADR as she’s watching High School Musical and — as if by magic — as soon as the show is over and Stitch exits Tower of Terror, the device alerts them that their table is ready.

All of this and a bit more is actually covered in the patent application. It doesn’t necessarily mean it will ever come to fruition however, but it does give a good sense as to where the park may be heading. The application also covers the device being used in conventions and other types of events where maps and schedules can be instantaneously updated and delivered to the end user, which would easily alleviate many of the problems experienced during the first D23 Expo (mind you this patent was applied for long before the Expo too).

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