Imagine walking into a room, running up to and hugging Donald Duck, turning to face an unmanned camera and walking out with a unique QR code stamped in your autograph book next to the ‘Donald Duck #1′ signature, referencing it later to not only access hi-res photos on your phone, but a fully edited video package of your character experience — and not a single Cast Member had a hand in the process.
With motion capture (MoCap) technology setups and video analytic software becoming more and more commonplace and more cost effective, it’s only a matter of time before their applications go beyond the norm of filmmaking and security.
A recently patent application by Disney Enterprises, titled ‘Automated Personalized Imaging System,’ by Christopher James Purvis, Joshua B. Gorin and Cliff Wong, seeks out to do just that. Recognizing that video is becoming more desirable over photography and the amount of human resources required to produce photos, let alone fully edited videos, the patent seeks out to create a completely automated solution.
Using an arrangement of cameras inside the room, the system will be able to identify and track multiple guests as they traverse through a show which includes standard character meet & greets. Such technology was on display from Walt Disney Imagineering at the Disney Parks and Resorts Pavilion at last year’s Disney D23 Expo. While The Amazing Destini demonstrated the ability to recognize a single guest’s emotions via facial expressions, an alternate display showed a screen in which all of the guests in the room could be counted and tracked.
With the patent, the system would be able to immediately recognize and track any number of guests as they enter a room and could, as an example, automatically take a photo when it identifies all of the subjects are in frame and posed (i.e., not moving). Once the image is taken, the system can properly crop and edit the photo based on the guests in the photo. Additionally, a series of video clips can be edited together to document the encounter, possibly mixing in stock footage or special templates to enhance the final product, all without the intervention of a Cast Member.
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.
Pictured here is a diagram taken from a recent patent application for a new breed of carousel from Disney Enterprises. At first glance, you’ll notice some interesting deviations from what we’ve come to known as a carousel, standard fare for any amusement park, even parks such as the Magic Kingdom, Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
What you may not notice at first, however — and it may not in fact be intentional in the drawing — is that the horses are backwards — at least for this side of the Atlantic. Traditionally speaking, American carousels travel in a counter-clockwise direction whereas European travel in a clockwise direction. So while you will generally see the horses face to the right at Disney theme parks (even at Disneyland Paris), these horses are facing the opposite direction.
Why that is, however, is not as important as the rest of the rest of the patent. The intent behind the new carousel design is to actually address what it sees as current problems with the existing, popular design as well as to plus the guest experience while on the attraction.
One problem that the patent defines with existing implementations has to do with the horses being configured to move up and down while the carousel is in motion. This means that when the ride cycle ends, the horse can be in any position along its y-axis, making it difficult for children and many adults to unload and load from the carousel, particularly when the horse is at its highest point. The new design addresses for this by ensuring that all of the horses are always at their lowest point between cycles, making the loading and unloading process easier.
But an even bigger change to the design is breaking the attraction up into a series of two or more concentric circles that can move independently of each other — not just in speed, but in direction as well. This means that not only can the horses effectively ‘race’ each other, but they could perhaps even spin around and travel in the opposite direction of the horses next to it, creating a ‘Dueling Dumbo’ effect.
The patent application goes on further to describe variations of attractions that can also leverage this technology. Pictured here is a different kind of attraction in which there are three rings. Vehicles are placed on the outer rings, facing each other, with the middle ring used as a transport for obstructions. By varying speeds and directions on all three rings, a classic shoot’em up type attraction receives a whole new spin.
Ingersoll Rand, a company that specializes in home efficiency and security with brands such as Club Car, Schlage, Thermo King and Trane, has announced it has an entered a partnership with Green Builder Media to bring its automation technology to the VISION House at Epcot’s Innoventions. The new exhibit, scheduled to open in April according to the announcement, will replace the House of Innoventions exhibit.
Making the announcement at the 2012 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Ingersoll Rand says the new exhibit will feature products form Trane and Schlage offering heating/air conditioning and security features to the demo home.
VISION House in INNOVENTIONS at Epcot® at the Walt Disney World® Resort, launching in April in collaboration with Green Builder Media, will demonstrate how the latest advances in technology allow homeowners to reduce their impact on the planet while making their homes more sustainable, safe, comfortable and efficient.
‘There’s a lot of buzz about”‘home automation” and “green,” but we have real products that homeowners are already using. Now, Innoventions guests from around the world will experience how these products can make their lives easier and more comfortable while helping protect their homes,’ said Scott Martin, vice president, marketing for Ingersoll Rand.
The VISION House is about showcasing solutions that will change how people keep their homes secure, comfortable and green through technology and innovation. One of the solutions from Ingersoll Rand demonstrated will be Nexia Home Intelligence, a new home automation system. Nexia allows residents to manage access to their homes via any Web-enabled computer and most smartphones. Homeowners can also adjust their high-efficiency heating and cooling system through Trane’s ComfortLink II Control and check on the security of their homes from their mobile devices via Schlage Home Keypad locks and Schlage cameras.
Nexia Home Intelligence also offers video recording capability for homeowners to capture video while away. Newly introduced sensor support expands the variety of control to accompany current locks, lights, thermostat and camera. Learn more at www.nexiahome.com.
Innoventions cast members will lead guests through a guided tour of VISION House. They will share details about the experiential exhibit, and encourage guests to consider how they can reduce their carbon footprint by implementing changes to their own homes.
To accompany the Innoventions at Epcot exhibit, Green Builder Media will launch a comprehensive technology platform that will integrate advanced online, mobile, digital and social media solutions to complement and expand the on-site experience. VISION House guests can learn more about a product featured in the exhibit through interactive gaming at an exhibit kiosk, or test their carbon footprint IQ via an online 3D experience. A sneak peek of the exhibit is available at greenbuildermedia.com.
At first glance, the type of attraction proposed in Disney’s patent application #20110312428, titled ‘Telescoping-Arm Round Ride for Amusement Parks,’ should look strongly familiar to anyone who’s ever visited a Disney theme park. Demonstrating with airplane-themed vehicles instead of elephants, this invention by Edward A. Nemeth and David W. Crawford has a couple of tricks up its sleeve.
While Dumbo allows guests to adjust the height of their vehicle as they ride in circles and attractions such as Aladdin’s Magic Carpet allows guests to adjust pitch in addition to height, the new attraction design allows guests to move in a completely different way in addition to vertically: horizontally. Using one of a couple of proposed systems, a guest would be able to control the radius of his vehicle, weaving back and forth during the ride. In addition, the patent application also calls for the potential of varying speeds during the cycle, referring to the traditional slow, constant speeds as a hindrance for those seeking a more thrilling experience. The application also maintains that the design easily allows to upgrade an existing Dumbo-type attraction by offering a more thrilling, varied experience using the exact same footprint.
Arguably a theme park will need a lot of available land, or an expansion of sorts, to implement the type of attraction demonstrated in the recently published patent application titled ‘Amusement Park Ride with Cable-Suspended Vehicles’ (patent application US 20110300957).
As demonstrated here by what appears to be some sort of cable-car themed vehicle cruising through the streets of a metropolis, the vehicle, as invented by David W. Crawford and Edward A. Nemeth, uses multiple cables to control various aspects and positions of the vehicle itself.
Specifically, the vehicle is intended to fully simulate flight while moving in a physical space. In addition to the ability of the attraction being able to physically control the pitch, roll and yaw of the vehicle, it also allows for the guest to control certain elements such as altitude.
The patent application even goes further in its exploration of what it considers the next generation of motion simulators. For example, multiple physical flightpaths could be possible while guests aboard the vehicle may have such control that they could alter the path/storyline and ‘thrill level.’
With the Avatar area slated to open at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Walt Disney World, it’s quite possible that this type of vehicle could be used in an attraction featuring mountain banshees. An excellent implementation of this may be a very plussed version of ‘Pteranodon Flyer’ found in the Jurassic Park section of Universal Studio Orlando’s Islands of Adventure where guests could tour the Avatar landscape above it all. Camouflaging the cables may require another patent altogether however.
The Walt Disney Company is semi-quietly preparing to launch its much-hyped and talked-about ‘Disney Studios All Access’ (DSAA) offering which essentially allows fans who have purchased a Disney film to then access that film across all mediums and multiple devices, including on-demand streaming, at no additional cost — ever. The service was first teased in the guidebook for the 2011 Disney D23 Expo with not much more information than the service will be ‘coming soon.’ Late last week, a micro website with a teaser video (below) has been created to promote the new service which lists the following titles available at launch: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Toy Story 3, TRON: Legacy, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Tangled, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End, Wall-E, UP, Alice in Wonderland, Snow Buddies, The Lion King, Disney’s A Christmas Carol, Enchanted, Secretariat, Cars 2, High School Musical 3.
The teaser website can be found here with the following domain names leading to it: DSAA.COM, DISNEYDIGITAL.COM, DISNEYALLACCESS.COM, MYDISNEYLIBRARY.COM and MYDISNEYLOCKER.COM.
If your visits to the Disney theme parks around the world leave you longing for the days of yore when your most favorite attraction ever was still around, or you feel the hankering to share those memories with your children who never were afforded the opportunity, your wishes may soon be answered, and that comes directly from Disney Parks Chair, Tom Staggs.
During the Disney Parks and Resorts presentation at Disney D23 Expo last weekend, Staggs, alongside Disneyland President George Kalogridis, announced an initiative to allow guest to interact with their favorite attractions in a whole new way. With little in way of details, Staggs asked the audience to ponder the possibilities of re-experiencing the Tahitian Terrace and ‘America the Beautiful’ in addition to new experiences such as dining with Imagineers at the Haunted Mansion and personalized tea party with princesses of the guests’ choosing.
Is Disneyland really planning on bringing back every old attraction? Could The Adventurer’s Club really be well on its way to hosting another Radiothon? The answer is a resounding yes, followed by a tiny asterisk. And if you jump down to the bottom of the text, the asterisk refers you to the word virtual.
It appears with the abundance of portable electronics and gaming consoles and a virtually infinite number of entertainment apps chosen specifically by the consumer for their own enjoyment has Walt Disney Imagineering wondering if it would be possible to allow for that same type of personalization at the theme park level, where one attraction is meant to satisfy the needs of millions.
What if, perhaps, what appears to be the Splash Mountain known and loved by millions could become an active volcano inhabited by dinosaurs with cool, refreshing lava for one, simply by donning a pair of glasses? That’s just one possibility that could be considered with US Patent #7837567, ‘Method and system for customizing a theme park experience.’
The patent, which was created by Roger Holzberg, Edward Kummer, Jeffrey Voris and Seth Mendelsohn, allows for a wide range of possibilities of allowing guests to customize their experiences at both the theme parks and at home, including the ability to ‘customize a virtual tour of the most exciting new rollercoaster rides guided by Walt Disney himself. ‘
It covers a wide range of possibilities, ranging from creating and sharing the customized experience at home and online within a community, to designing it at home and experiencing it at the park, to doing it all from within the park itself. Needless to say, if it’s possible for guests’ to customize their experiences, it will certainly be possible for Imagineering to create a pre-existing library of experiences that guests can enjoy within the park.
Another example given allows the guest to customize an existing attraction (like the Splash Mountain example loosely provided above) in the form of a FPS jungle-based warfare game:
‘…Using the specific example of a jungle warfare shooting game to illustrate the present embodiment, interactive theme park experience customizing system, permits a user to produce a custom virtual jungle warfare shooting game suitable for adaptation to a theme park ride, or virtual reality attraction.
By downloading customized theme park experience design and running interactive custom virtual theme park experience design application, a user can designate a shooting game contained as a predetermined motif as the a template from which to design a custom virtual theme park experience. Having designated a shooting game as the designated motif, the user may select customizable features, such as a jungle warfare backdrop, targets, target values, etcetera, from customizable features database. Interactive custom virtual theme park experience design application can then mediate assembly of the designated motif and selected customizable features to produce a jungle warfare shooting game customized by the user.
The custom jungle warfare shooting game produced by the user can then be transferred to custom virtual theme park experience storage and be stored there. That custom virtual theme park experience may in some embodiments be accessed and experienced, as a computer game for example, by other members of a community of users. Subsequently, the custom jungle warfare shooting game produced by the user may be adapted as a customized theme park experience. For instance, the custom virtual jungle warfare shooting game produced by the user may be incorporated into a water ride at Disneyland, at which riders could use simulated guns mounted on a river craft to destroy targets displayed on video monitors positioned at various points along the course of the ride. A decision to adapt the custom virtual jungle warfare shooting game could be based on its rated popularity among a community of users accessing theme park experience design content, ease of implementation as an in-park attraction, or other criteria.’
For your added enjoyment, the patent is available for download here.
‘You must get great reception with those,’ said Mickey Mouse to a Mouse Ears-sporting attendee at the 2011 D23 Expo which took place last weekend. Gradually he stepped further away from the guest, asking the inevitable ‘can you hear me now?’ question over and over.
This is just one of the many interactions that took place at the D23 Expo in which guests got their first public, announced opportunity to speak with Mickey Mouse for the first time since Disneyland introduced the meet and greet character, decades ago.
There were actually two variations of the Talking Mickey presented to the audience, the first being a ‘live’ version which could freely converse with guests. Available on Saturday, he was replaced by what what’s affectionately referred to as the ‘Soundboard Mickey’ on Sunday, which is when we were able to catch up with him. This version of Mickey operates with a limited set of phrases with which to respond to guests’ inquiries as well as move the meet and greet along by suggesting that they all take group photos. We stress the word photos because the obvious appeal to Talking Mickey in the day when most everyone has a camera or phone that records video, the video is certainly a more desirable alternative and, in fact, Imagineering seems to be pushing the idea of both video and photos when meeting Mickey.
Although video footage of moments of awkwardness have made their way onto YouTube before, this is the biggest workout Mickey has gotten to date and after observing just thirty minutes of it, we walked away with about ten minutes we’d like to share.
What we witnessed, which was undoubtedly a huge milestone and technical achievement for Walt Disney Imagineering, was bittersweet. The largest disappointment, ironically enough, was simply that the number of children coming to see Mickey was minimal simply because he effectively did not exist outside Imagineering’s ‘Carousel of Projects’ pavilion and thus children were dominated by adult guests who would line up for nearly an hour before his scheduled appearances.
That said, we were relieved to see that adult interaction could be just as magical (although the desire to put one’s hand in Mickey’s mouth seemed far more limited). Another positive was the array of phrases Mickey has all to accomplish the same task, as you can see by the video, when he goes to sign autographs, even jokingly reciting his grocery list at one point and offering to sign the royal decree of a child dressed as a princess.
Awkwardness was still present, however, as Mickey ‘Gee, I Don’t Know’ Mouse seems to be unable to simply say yes or no (although he certainly has his share of positive phrases). One interaction, not caught on video, had Mickey Mouse asking the adult guest what he did today. When the guest responded by saying he had been shopping, he asked Mickey if he had done any shopping as well. After a bit of a pause with silence, the guest rephrased the question, to which Mickey simply gave his ‘I don’t know’ response.
It’s clear the technology has promise, but there still seems to be a bit of a way to go before Mickey Mouse (and Pete, reportedly) start interacting with guests full time in the parks. This was further evidenced by Walt Disney Imagineering filming the entire interaction, hopefully looking for ways to improve the efficiency and coherence of Mickey’s half of the conversation. In any case, it’s very clear by the video, that most attendees of any age certainly didn’t seem to mind.
One just can’t help wonder what runs through a child’s head when Mickey doesn’t talk to them the next time they’re in the parks, however.
Traditional motion capture techniques use cameras to meticulously record the movements of actors inside studios, enabling those movements to be translated into digital models. But by turning the cameras around — mounting almost two dozen, outward-facing cameras on the actors themselves — scientists at Disney Research, Pittsburgh (DRP), and Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) have shown that motion capture can occur almost anywhere — in natural environments, over large areas and outdoors.
Motion capture makes possible scenes such as those in “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” where the movements of actor Bill Nighy were translated into a digitally created Davy Jones with octopus-like tentacles forming his beard. But body-mounted cameras enable capture of motions, such as running outside or swinging on monkey bars, that would be difficult — if not impossible — otherwise, said Takaaki Shiratori, a post-doctoral associate at DRP.
“This could be the future of motion capture,” said Shiratori, who will make a presentation about the new technique today (Aug. 8) at SIGGRAPH 2011, the International Conference on Computer Graphics and Interactive Techniques in Vancouver. As video cameras become ever smaller and cheaper, “I think anyone will be able to do motion capture in the not-so-distant future,” he said.
Other researchers on the project include Jessica Hodgins, DRP director and a CMU professor of robotics and computer science; Hyun Soo Park, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering at CMU; Leonid Sigal, DRP researcher; and Yaser Sheikh, assistant research professor in CMU’s Robotics Institute.
The wearable camera system makes it possible to reconstruct the relative and global motions of an actor thanks to a process called structure from motion (SfM). Takeo Kanade, a CMU professor of computer science and robotics and a pioneer in computer vision, developed SfM 20 years ago as a means of determining the three-dimensional structure of an object by analyzing the images from a camera as it moves around the object, or as the object moves past the camera.
In this application, SfM is not used primarily to analyze objects in a person’s surroundings, but to estimate the pose of the cameras on the person. Researchers used Velcro to mount 20 lightweight cameras on the limbs, and trunk of each subject. Each camera was calibrated with respect to a reference structure. Each person then performed a range-of-motion exercise that allowed the system to automatically build a digital skeleton and estimate positions of cameras with respect to that skeleton.
SfM is used to estimate rough position and orientation of limbs as the actor moves through an environment and to collect sparse 3D information about the environment that can provide context for the captured motion. The rough position and orientation of limbs serves as an initial guess for a refinement step that optimizes the configuration of the body and its location in the environment, resulting in the final motion capture result.
The quality of motion capture from body-mounted cameras does not yet match the fidelity of traditional motion capture, Shiratori said, but will improve as the resolution of small video cameras continues to improve.
The technique requires a significant amount of computational power; a minute of motion capture now can require an entire day to process. Future work will include efforts to find computational shortcuts, such as performing many of the steps simultaneously through parallel processing.
For more information and to see a video, visit the project website at http://drp.disneyresearch.com/projects/mocap/.