When Disney’s Art of Animation Resort opens this summer, its guests will be one of the first to experience the driving force behind Walt Disney World’s NextGen project — the room key. Instead of the traditional card key readers that most hotels use, guests at Art of Animation will access their room via RFID. Although some vacation destinations (notably Great Wolf Lodge) have already embraced the magic of RFID for years and have even taken it far beyond the hotel room, this gesture is particularly noteworthy because it signals the start of what we’ve already known to be coming and it’s just the tiniest tip of the largest iceberg this universe has ever seen.
How much of a spotlight will be shown on NextGen (hereinafter referred to by its proper trademarked name, either Magic+ or My Disney Experience /aka/ MDE) when Art of Animation opens up remains to be seen. In its entirety, however, the RFID will be housed in a patented, resizable — and customizable (for a modest upcharge) — wristband known as the MagicBand. The MagicBand won’t just simply hold your room key, however. It will be your ticket (you may recall tests earlier this year using RFID as admission media at Epcot), but more importantly, it will be your identity. It will identify you and every thing Walt Disney World knows about you to every one and every thing around you — characters, attractions and even (let’s face it) trash cans. Any place Disney Parks wishes to put a proximity reader and some wires will instantly become aware of you and your family.
Add to that how we recently revealed plans for a GPS-aware mobile app that Disney Parks was working on that would combine guests’ own photos and PhotoPass to generate a real-time scrapbook that can be shared and interact with friends and family who would tag along on the vacation virtually. However, based on a recent patent application simply titled ‘Storytelling Engine,’ it appears that the app may simply be more of a proof of concept for a much greater project employing Magic+. Invented by David J. Canora (FL), Robert Swirsky (CA) and Michael J. Gomes (FL), the patent describes how a ‘Story Author’ (presumably an Imagineer) can create multiple story arcs for various scenarios and how the system would automatically recognize the scenarios, generate a story using a combination of ‘custom media’ and stock media and produce output that can than be used as an upsell, such as a flip book, photos, video, streaming media, etc.
Several examples are provided throughout the patent application as to how the system may work, but they all share two common elements: attractions are individually aware when a specified guest visits them; and attractions are equipped with still and video cameras throughout to capture photos and video.
In one such example, the ‘Story Author’ has created templates for ‘I Conquered the Mountains.’ The parameters for these story arcs requires that a guest visit Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Splash Mountain (no specific time range provided). Upon visiting all three attractions at least once, the ‘I Conquered the Mountains (for the first time)’ story is generated, using photos and video of the guest taken from the actual ride visit and combining them with stock imagery to complete the story which is further personalized with information known about the specific guest (age, gender, etc), all without any explicit input from the guest. Should the guest visit each of the three attractions at least twice, it would then generate an entirely different story arc using the template of ‘I Conquered the Mountains (yet again).’ These templates could be applied to any number and combination of attractions and any number of attraction-independent potential influencers such as first visit, time of day, time of year, holiday overlays and birthdays. Did we say birthdays? Indeed we did. Equipped with your MagicBand, those birthday and first time buttons will be purely for show (and the benefit of other guests) as anyone and anything equipped with a reader will instantly be aware of it.
In short, Disney will no longer be able to keep track of just how many times you’ve been to the Resort, but how many times you’ve visited each park, each attraction, eaten popcorn, and much, much more.