Disney’s Infrared Projection Stops Ride Photo ‘Theft,’ Adds Haunted Mansion ‘Ghostbusting’

Infrared Imaging Projection by DisneyMore than three years ago, Stitch Kingdom broke the news that Disney was looking into a way to control what it considered a viable threat: abuse of refillable mugs. The news caused an uproar across the internet sparking further debate over a topic that had already been debated immeasurable times before. While some recognized it was a long day coming, many argued that it really wasn’t worth Disney’s time and effort to implement such a system, while others plotted on how to get around it just based on the patent application. Three years later, the Walt Disney World Resort has introduced its ‘Rapid Fill’ program which, in effect, does exactly what the company set out to do.

This brings us to the next policy circumvention Disney may be looking to take a nip at: theme park attraction photos. Considered a vital element to operating income for theme parks, Disney is taking a cold, hard look at why guests are no longer compelled to shell over $15 for an 8×10 representing the last two minutes of their lives. Innoventions such as PhotoPass+ which promise unlimited ride photos digitally was a step in the right direction, but with the advent of digital camera technology being so inexpensive and commonplace in today’s world, Disney feels there is a much more rudimentary step to be taken. Even if the perception of photo prices being lowered to an attractive price point,  guests still can use their own portable cameras to take a photo of the attraction photo for free. Therefore, Disney’s plan is to innovent a method that prevents guests from taking the photos in the first place — via infrared projection.

According to ‘Infrared Imaging Projection’ (US Patent Application 20130229527), the concept is to use a specialized projector that can overlay a visible element (such as the attraction photo being displayed on a monitor) using infrared light. As infrared is invisible to the naked eye, a guest will only see the attraction photo, but using camera that is sensitive to infrared light, the superimposed image will appear on top of the item being photographed, such as a copyright message. In the example diagram from the patent shown here, the object shaped like a person is actually the item being photographed while box 120 is the infrared projector and box 100 is the camera taking the photo.

It’s a brilliant concept and would certainly do the trick if not for slight problem: most cameras today, including phone cameras, already block infrared light, rendering the process moot.

The patent application isn’t all bad, however. It goes on to describe how infrared projection can be used in a positive manner, such as projecting ‘ghosts’ inside a theme park’s haunted mansion attraction for the benefit of those with devices that can see infrared light. Other examples include scavenger hunt type games using the same technology.

It is far more likely that the technology introduced in this patent will be used towards realizing something Walt Disney Imagineering has reportedly been toying around with for years: a game for the Haunted Mansion in which guests attempt to trap ghost residents into a mobile device, even being able to take them home as a virtual pet, so to speak. Of course most of this is based on speculation and Disney has not announced or confirmed anything as of yet.

Ironically enough, Disney is considering looking at infrared as a beneficial tool when it comes to guests photos, especially when it comes to the nextgen meet and greets which involve articulated characters whose mouths move when they speak and whose eyes blink at regularly blinking intervals. While humans can do their best to not blink when having a photo taken, characters have a much more difficult time controlling that particular trait and so Disney has also filed a patent titled ‘System for Controlling Robotic Characters to Enhance Photographic Results’ (US Patent Application 20130073087) which considers audio and other various cues (including infrared range-finding and red-eye reduction flashes) which will cue a character automatically to not blink mid-photo.

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3 thoughts on “Disney’s Infrared Projection Stops Ride Photo ‘Theft,’ Adds Haunted Mansion ‘Ghostbusting’

  1. This one actually makes more sense than the RFID on the soda mugs. I run a professional photo lab, and I recently did a cost analysis to see if I needed to adjust my dealer prices. After factoring in the cost of paper, chemicals, utilities to run the printer, the time I use to design custom graphics, and paying my lab tech to run the machine, each 8×10 costs me within pennies of $1 (more in the summer, less in the winter, based on utility costs).
    Disney’s retail photo price is comparable to other places selling similar. For every photo not sold b/c someone just snaps a shot of the preview screen with their phone/camera, Disney is losing profit. And instead of the pennies they lose at the soda machines, now we’re talking actual dollars. Just assuming ten people do this an hour, and the park is open 10 hrs that day, Disney has lost over $1000. Multiply that times 365, that’s a potential loss of $365,000/yr at just one park. Granted, that’s a supposition – there may not be 10 people every hour that do that, and the parks aren’t always open that long. But it gives you an idea of potential profit/loss.
    Now….that said, I’d rather see Disney just drop the prices. Charge $10 for the photo instead of $15, and save the money it will cost to install the new tech. I’d be curious to see how the numbers work out. Then again, the technology has more far-reaching possibilities than just stopping photo “theft.”
    I think I would’ve liked to be a fly on the wall when this was all discussed. And I’d love to know the real numbers in terms of profit/loss on the photos.

  2. I actually like my photos of Mickey, etc with their eyes closed. I get them during the afternoon stage shows. We never knew they added this ability until we saw our photos.

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