While Walt Disney World’s billion-dollar NextGen project has been no secret for quite some time, along with many of its aspects such as extensive use of RFID, the company itself has remained famously mum about the extent of the project, something we have been discussing for well over a year.
A new article from the New York Times, goes into the technology, now officially known as MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience (terms we have been applying for nearly a year), and some of the experiences it will offer. Some of the recently confirmed technology will allow characters to be able to deliver personalized experiences, a topic we have spoken about quite a bit, including in this article on just what Disney will learn about its guests, from which the NYT quotes some of our commenters. Back in October, we also looked at additional NextGen technology which describes just how the MyMagic+ will function inside the parks and negotiate multiple guests with multiple ‘entitlements,’ including characters who will greet guests by name (as the NYT article also suggests).
As extensive at the NYT article appears to be, it’s our contention that it still just a drop in the bucket with what the full MyMagic+ experience will entail, such as ‘Achievements’ (discussed in Big Brother article), a mobile app that will let family members at home virtually join the trip and interact including purchasing real in-park gifts, personalized and interactive elements at attractions like ‘it’s a small world’ and much, much more.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one: When is a character not a character? When they’re an ‘experience delivery system.’ Get it? Okay, maybe it’s not that funny, or clever, but according to a patent application for a system known as ‘Managing Experience State to Personalize Destination Visits,’ it’s the future truth — and it’s a key element to the MyMagic+/My Disney Experience coming to the Walt Disney World Resort as part of its NextGen experience.
Though it lacks any shocking revelations, the patent application answers one of the most forefront questions since information began pouring in since we began sharing information about the project. Completely apart from FASTPASS+ which is available to families just as the regular FASTPASS system is, this is more in line with the “it’s a small world” real-world avatar; the question being if there are multiple people entitled to a customization, how does Disney decide who gets it?
And so then you have this: the Experience State Management System. And it goes a little something like this.
First, the familiar. Guests will have the reusable and personalized (for an upcharge) MagicBand which uses RFID technology and serves as the key to virtually everything from unlocking hotel room doors (for which Disney is aggressively updating all the locks systematically as you read this) to holding park admission media (though both of these are optional depending on the circumstances) to holding access to FASTPASS+ enabled attractions. Readers, however, will be installed virtually everywhere and it is no gross understatement to suggest that the system is capable of identifying guests virtually anywhere in the parks. We also know that with the readers being able to identify guests as they enter attractions, it also potentially provides supplementary information to a cast member who can now greet a guest by name and/or wish them a happy birthday even if there’s no button, congratulate them on their graduation, or any other possible celebration imaginable, so long as it’s noted in their CRS database.
That’s where the ESMS really comes in because it too will have access to all of this information and not only will it be able to see what entitlements a guest is set to receive, it will obviously be able to record and reference entitlements already distributed. Therefore it can use its guest history to decide who amongst a group of guests will receive the special attention at any single experience, be it within the same family or amongst different groups as well. For example, an attraction could be configured to wish someone a happy birthday when it detects them in a group. But what if there’s two guests celebrating a birthday that day? Maybe one of them was already recognized for it earlier in the day, so the system will decide to honor the other guest. There are several other factors it can consider, or if it determines there is a statistical tie, it can make a random decision to skew the numbers going forward. The system will also use biological information such as age and gender to determine which experiences will be available for a particular guest.
Aside from a talking character (note we do not say face character) being able to greet guests by name upon entering a room, several other potential uses are suggested by the patent application. Special upcharge experiences include birthday acknowledgements, or a pirate experience in which the guest will be acknowledged automatically throughout the parks as being a pirate in any number of ways including visually morphing the guest into looking like a pirate, being dressed like a pirate, etc. The same technique could be applied to make the guest appear to be most anything such as a movie star or athlete.
Although the patent application doesn’t explicitly mention it, the ESMS is also likely to play a role in Achievements, which we also previously spoke about to some extent.
For further reading, you can view the patent application in its entirety here.
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.