It literally sent shockwaves across the internet last year when we first reported that it appeared Walt Disney World was looking into closing current loopholes regarding the refillable mug system currently in place in which any cup could be used indefinitely at the soda fountain dispensers located in the food courts of the Walt Disney World resorts.
Most reactions seemed to side with disbelief or flat-out denial. Others were angered by the notion of what effectively amounts to nickel-and-diming guests with beverages Disney Parks gets for free (Coca-Cola does supply free syrup as part of an agreement with Disney, but there are obviously water, CO2 and electricity overheads). Some applauded the news while others argued as to whether using a refillable mug way past its expected end date amounted to theft or was truly unethical.
Yesterday, however, Micechat posted a Walt Disney World update which confirms that Disney Parks is now trying out this new technology at All Star Sports. According to the report, newly purchased refillable-mugs will only work for a certain period of time (does not appear to be tied to a reservation), after which they will only be able to receive water and ice from the dispensers, as will any other cups, including older refillable-mugs. From the description, it appears that the cups contain RFID chips that the dispenser can recognize and determine if it’s within the usable period. Additionally, to hinder those from simply filling a cup and passing the contents along, only to immediately refill it, there is a five minute period one must wait before attempting to refill again. The report also notes that single-use cups purchased at the food court will only work for a very limited time, also indicating they contain RFID chips with a much shorter life.
What’s important to keep in mind here, from Disney’s perspective, isn’t necessarily that it cost them a few cents each time someone uses an old mug, but that they’re not squeezing out another $65 or so per family of four on each trip for a new cup, so it comes down to the economics of lost potential sales.
You can read more about the technology and what other possibilities it includes in the patent we share here.
UPDATE #1: 7/12/11 – MouseSteps.com has more news on the changes, which they report won’t actually be in effect until early next week, including photos and video of the new machines as well as news about potential plans to bring the technology to a Walt Disney World Resort theme park soon.
Beginning today, guests with visual disabilities will be able to explore Disneyland park in a whole new way through an enhanced Disney-designed device that provides detailed audio description of outdoor areas. This feature compliments the audio description inside Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks’ attractions and theaters that was launched over a year ago.
“Disney Parks have long been at the forefront of providing accessibility for guests with disabilities,” said Greg Hale, chief safety officer and vice president of Worldwide Standards and Auditing for Walt Disney Parks & Resorts. “We are pleased to build on this legacy with new technology that enables us to do something that has never been done before – provide rich audio description in moving attractions and outdoor environments.”
The enhanced audio description service adds more options to the existing device including:
- Descriptions of outdoor locations throughout Disneyland park.
- An interactive audio menu that allows guests to choose the type of information they would like to receive about outdoor areas – from a description of their surroundings to information about nearby attractions, restaurants, and entertainment.
The 7.2-ounce handheld device continues to offer Disneyland Resort guests:
- Detailed audio description of key visual elements, including action and scenery, for more than 20 attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure parks.
- Assistive listening for guests with mild to moderate hearing loss.
- Handheld captioning that enables guests to read captions while enjoying specific attractions.
- Activation of closed captioning on pre-show video monitors.
“I know of no other public space in this country, or anywhere else for that matter, that is as welcoming and accessible to people with disabilities as Disney’s theme parks,” said Larry Goldberg, director of the WGBH National Center for Accessible Media in Boston, which is considered a pioneer in developing multimedia and new technologies that make media accessible for the disabled. “With their captioning systems for guests who are deaf or hard of hearing and now outdoor environmental description for guests who are blind or visually impaired, Disneyland park is now more inclusive than ever. WGBH is proud of our role in helping make this happen.”
WGBH teamed up with Disney to deliver outdoor audio description, marking the latest collaboration between the two organizations that began with the installation of WGBH’s Rear Window® Captioning system in Disney’s theater-based attractions in 1996.
Disney has patented and licensed the assistive technology that could serve a wide variety of retail, commercial and industrial applications. The technology is already being used at the World of Coca-Cola Museum in Atlanta, The Hall at Patriot Place in Boston and the Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas and was awarded the National Society of Professional Engineers 2010 “New Product Award.”
“We are particularly excited to make this technology available beyond Disney Parks and extend accessibility where it was previously impractical,” added Hale.
Other examples of Disney Parks’ services for guests with disabilities include:
- Accessible experiences – Disney Parks’ focus is on providing guests with accessible experiences, from vehicles at The Little Mermaid-Ariel’s Undersea Adventure that enable guests to remain in their wheelchair during the ride to American Sign Language interpretation at live shows.
- Pamphlets for guests with disabilities – Disability-specific pamphlets, including one for guests with visual disabilities, provide an overview of services and facilities available for guests with disabilities. Braille guidebooks also are available to assist guests with visual disabilities during their visit.
- Resort access – Disneyland Resort hotels offer special equipment and facilities for guests with disabilities such as phone text, visual indicator door knocks and sloped-entry pools.
The handheld assistive device is offered at no cost with a refundable deposit at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort theme parks. For further information about services for guests with disabilities, guests should visit www.disneyland.com or call 714-781-7290.
Photo courtesy Disneyland Resort
In a recent newsletter update, the Disneyland Resort has announced that Radiator Springs Racers, part of the new Cars Land in Disney California Adventure and scheduled to open in summer of 2012, will offer an enhanced version of FASTPASS, designed — in part — to ‘make the service more available,’ but stops short of any details, noting only ‘the details are still being worked out.’
The article quotes Abel Garay, Reporting Assistant for Global Park Operations, who was speaking in regards to the future of the FASTPASS system. The full quote follows:
‘Radiator Spring Racers in the new Cars Land is planned to open with Disney’s FASTPASS Service. There are plans to enhance the overall Guest experience and make the service more available, but all the details are still being worked out.’
That’s as specific as the details get at the moment, but we do know that Disney Parks has already committed itself to the option to allow guests to actually reserve specific ride times from home via FASTPASS, so it’s a natural assumption that Radiator Spring Racers is anticipated to be one of the first to offer this option.
InsidetheMagic.net has posted video of the new interactive hitchhiking ghosts at Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion at the Walt Disney World Resort.
As was confirmed earlier this week, Haunted Mansion is now using a technology we first reported more than a year ago in which cameras trained on the guests and recognition software work to dynamically generate images that appear to interact with the guests. From swapping hats (or beards) to experimenting with guests’ heads to just going for a ride, the video provides many of the sample animations which also highlights the virtual limitlessness of the technology in that it’s fully capable of determining how many guests are in the omnimover doom buggy vehicle as well as their physical locations inside the vehicle.
Last night, Walt Disney Imagineering did some preliminary tests with willing
victims cast members at Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion in the Magic Kingdom. The results had the victims cast members losing their heads laughing their heads off as the hitchhiking ghosts interacted with them in ways that have not yet been experienced in a theme park attraction.
The report from insidethemagic.com appears to jibe completely with our recent report on speculation that a patent developed by Imagineers would soon be making its way to the Haunted Mansion. The technology, which we first reported on more than a year ago allows computer generated images to dynamically be created to appear to interact with physical guests. At the time, we believed the technology would be used for a reported spectacular new meet & greet experience with Tinker Bell and the fairies of Pixie Hollow in the New Fantasyland, but as time went on and plans changed, we saw an opportunity for the tech to be used in Haunted Mansion, particularly once we learned of the new components installed in the enhanced area.
As of yet, however, the technology is in the testing phase so there is no real telling when the technology will be available to guests, but the report of the test definitely confirms our suspicions and we look forward to the day when we can see the new technology in action.
To learn more about the technology and to view the details of the patent, see our prior report here.
With the ‘Traveling Virtual Pet Game System’ (U.S. Patent Application 20110070935), inventor Damon R. Beggs hopes to bring the perpetual successes of the virtual pet into the 21st century, allowing it to travel the world (and beyond) all while in the palm of your hand.
Noting that the term pet is used loosely (it could be a person, ghost, yeti or unicorn as much as it could be a puppy or kitten), the non-platform-specific system describes a method for allowing an owner to care for their pet by traditional means (feeding, playing, etc.) while adding the ability for the pet to travel to foreign destinations, either with or without the physical aid of its owner. For example, when a pet is determined to be in Paris, France (either detected via GPS or simply told it is through a menu), it can visually visit the Eiffel Tower, develop a taste for crepes and even learn various phrases in French (either on its own, or through the assistance of the owner and a microphone). It can also learn activities associated with its hosted locale, such as Flamenco dancing in Spain. These experiences will be learned by the pet who will continue to maintain these experiences and preferences as it continues traveling elsewhere.
The system allows for the transfer of pets between owners, so that an owner can temporarily adopt a pet and expose it to the owner’s personal geographic environment and then release it to share with another owner, or a pet may simply opt to leave an owner if it is not cared for properly.
For those interested in reading more on the patent application, we have provided it in PDF format for your enjoyment here.
Early last year, we shared with you news of a patent from Disney Enterprises which, in part, calls for being able to use cameras combined with software to detect a guest and identify certain features while also being able to combine dynamically generated images with projected or reflected images of the guests themselves.
Then, we were led to believe that this technology would first be seen as part of a new meet and greet experience at Pixie Hollow in the New Fantasyland. With those plans seemingly out the window, we now focus our attention to the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom which has very openly been making some unknown changes to the hitchhiking ghosts scene at the end.
With the patent applied to what we know of what’s already been done, which first included implementing digital projectors (and temporary projections) and now cameras and infrared lighting (as per Paul Chadkin), it now seems more likely than ever that the patent will finally find a spot amongst the 999 happy haunts.
The original effect of a hitchhiking ghost joining guests in the omnimover doom buggy was achieved through a centuries-old theatrical technique known as peppers ghost (also being used in the ballroom) in which solid models of the ghosts are rotated in perfect sync with the omnimovers. By shining light on the side of the ghosts on the opposite side of the two-way mirror, the images are combined while offering a ghostly effect for the additional companion.
Although an effective trick, there is the inherent physical limitation that the ghost is always appears in the same spot on the vehicle, which would typically be on top of a single rider. Now the technology which is already patented, will allow cameras and software to detect exact heights and locations of guests within the vehicle and generate a dynamic image of the ghosts allowing them to appear to interact with the guests.
Specifically, there’s this paragraph from the patent that’s worth noting:
“In one example, a dynamic image generated by display device 10 may comprise animated characters appearing in a combined image to interact with observer 14 or other individuals. In particular embodiments, such characters may be generated to appear as interacting with individuals by, for example, making eye contact with an individual, touching an individual, putting a hat on an individual and then taking the hat off, talking to the individual, just to name a few example. Again, such characters may be generated based, at least in part, on real-time information such as attributes of one or more individuals as identified above. In one embodiment, the type of character generated may be based, at least in part, on an apparent height, age and/or gender of one or more individuals co-located with observer 14 , for example.”
For your benefit, we now include the patent for viewing here.
(please note this article is based on pure speculation given a basic amount of supplied knowledge)
On Friday, March 11, the American Foundation for the Blind will recognize and award Walt Disney Parks and Resorts for its innovative Assistive Technology Device which debuted in summer 2010 at its annual ceremony in Seattle. Along with Disney, CBS Television, Lexmark International and Accessible Twitter will also be recognized by the non-profit group.
“Too often, swift advances in technology bring the rewards of convenience and entertainment to an eager world while inadvertently leaving those who are visually impaired behind,” says AFB president and CEO, Carl R. Augusto. “Each of this year’s Access Award winners displayed a real commitment to making sure their products and services are equally accessible to everyone. And with the growing number of people with vision loss, focusing on accessibility is not only the right thing to do, it’s also a savvy business decision.”
The wireless-enabled device, which weighs just 7.2 oz, features audio descriptions of more than 50 attractions in the parks plus other necessary information such as the location of the nearest restrooms. It also provides several features for those that are deaf or hearing-impaired. The device is free to use for guests, although it does require a refundable security deposit.
ESPN has launched its ScoreCenter application, popular on devices like the iPhone and iPad, to Internet-enabled televisions. ScoreCenter will first be available on Samsung Internet-enabled TVs via the Samsung Apps store, the world’s first HDTV-based application store.
The application provides fans with the ability to view scores and stats from a variety of sports with a touch of a button. Scoreboards and live game details can expand to include in-game stats, scores and schedules. Personalization features allow fans to customize their ScoreCenter experience by highlighting their favorite teams and leagues. Fans can also position the application to suit their preference, including across the top, bottom or sides of the screen. The video image adjusts accordingly, depending on the placement of the app.
“Bringing the ScoreCenter application from mobile devices to televisions shows how good content and utility can start on any screen,” said Sean Bratches, executive vice president, sales and marketing, ESPN. “This was a natural progression of a great product and one more way we’re serving sports fans.”
“Sports fans are passionate consumers who often demand the best entertainment and media experience in their living rooms. With the release of ESPN ScoreCenter app, our second collaboration with ESPN, Samsung continues to deliver on its commitment to give people the flexibility to enjoy a quality media and content experience when and where they want it,” said Eric Anderson, vice president of content and product solutions, Samsung Electronics America, Inc. “Fans no longer need to step away from their Samsung TV to check the latest sports scores and stats because of this innovative app.”
This past weekend, tens of thousands of families partook in the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival held on the National Mall in Washington, DC as well as satellite events throughout the country. The two-day free festival was created in order to inspire the nation’s youth to pursue careers in maths and sciences by offering various hands-on activities. One of many participants, The Walt Disney Company presented a booth and multiple presentations in conjunction with the National Academy of Engineering featuring TRON: Legacy as well as Walt Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot.
The concept behind the booth was ’14 Grand Challenges,’ created by the NAE, which is essentially a list of tasks that the NAE believes will need to be addressed in this and future generations. Inside the booth were a few exhibits that demonstrated some of the challenges in practice as well as items from the Disney film. On display from TRON: Legacy was the life-size demonstration model of the lightcycle as well as the SHIVA laser invented by Kevin Flynn which was actually used during the movie’s production.
Relating to the sci-fi SHIVA laser scanner (which the original TRON featured back in 1982) was an exhibit on 3D scanning which helps scientists understand objects better. By using a scanning in a physical object, the computer can generate a point cloud which then translates into a mesh model and finally a digital representation of the object, which can then be explored further in digital space, modified and even re-printed as a physical object.
The next demonstration made every one into a virtual brain surgeon, even if — especially in my case — they aren’t one. Using the the NeuroTouch VR brain surgery simulator developed by the National Research Council in Canada. The NeuroTouch takes MRI data and generates a virtual copy of the patients’ brain and allows the surgeon to visualize and even practice operating on the brain, even providing physical feedback in the virtual 3D space. The exhibit offered visitors the opportunity to remove a brain tumor while controlling any bleeding that was occurring as a result and scored the visitor’s performance. As I mentioned earlier, I’m no brain surgeon, so we’ll just leave it at that.
The final demonstration in the booth was created by Walt Disney Imagineering specifically as an offering for the festival as well as the film’s premiere and uses a new innovention called ‘light painting.’ A two-step process, the visitor first finds him/herself alone in a room with what essentially amounts to a sawhorse. Reclining on the sawhorse as if one were riding a lightcycle, the system uses stereoscopic imagery to take a 3D photo of the visitor. Following the photo, the visitor is handed a wand whose tip is tracked by the cameras placed all around. This allows the visitor to virtually paint their missing lightcycle in the virtual 3D space. Imagineer Lanny Smoot, who talked about the exhibit during his presentation which I’ll cover next, compared it to using a digital camera at home and leaving the shutter open so that the camera constantly captures every movement, but here it’s in a literal 3D space, not just the 2D space a single camera could capture.