NextGen takes its next step at Walt Disney World this week
NextGen takes its next step this week at the Walt Disney World Resort, as Imagineers and attractions workers begin testing
the next generation ride reservation system at the Disney World theme parks.
All these would merge as a single card or wristband, under NextGen
Guests who have been invited in advance will be testing new "Fastpass" cards with embedded RFID chips. Participants will have pre-scheduled Fastpass return times at several attractions, and will use the RFID cards to check in at those attractions during their one-hour return time windows.
Disney's ultimate goal here is to use RFID technology to enable a single card or wristband to do everything for a guest - to be a hotel room card, theme park admission ticket, charge card, Photo Pass card, Fastpass ticket, and Priority Seating reservation card. Disney doesn't need RFID to do all of those things - indeed, current resort cards can do fulfill many of those functions. But Disney also wants its NextGen media to be able to trigger interactive animation at selected locations around the resort. Eventually, your card or wristband will be the ticket to an individual narrative experience that follows you around your vacation - think of a much more robust "Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom"-type experience that's overlaid on top of whatever else you choose to do at the resort. It doesn't have to be a game, like Sorcerers. It could be any type of narrative experience you'd want to add to your vacation. As I wrote two weeks ago, theme park lands in NextGen will no longer just be settings for attractions, but become platforms for them.
Disney's introducing RFID room cards this month at the Art of Animation hotel. This week's test begins the process of bringing the Fastpass system into the fold. And Disney's quietly begun work to create interactive animations in the Magic Kingdom that can be triggered by RFID-enabled media. Eventually, Disney will put the various pieces together, and we'll have our NextGen experience in the Walt Disney World theme parks.
The challenge, beyond simply getting the tech to work, is load balancing guest capacity across the parks. Ideally, NextGen would allow Disney to do a better job of spreading crowds throughout the park, as it would give Disney the capability of more actively managing where guests go, and when.
I'm reminded of how One More Disney Day went at Disneyland on Feb. 29, before California Adventure closed for the day at 8 pm and the after-work crowd swarmed the resort. Since the park was filled that day with experienced Disney fans, many of whom were trying to do everything in the park in that one day, the crowds dispersed nicely, spreading throughout the park and keeping wait times next to zero on most attractions, even though tens of thousands of people were in the park. NextGen could allow a next generation ride reservation system to better distribute guests throughout the park, the way that the daytime Disneyland fans did on their own during daylight hours on Feb. 29.
The flip side of all this is the capacity problems inherent in creating individual interactive experiences throughout the parks. Consider the wait time we're already seeing at some Sorcerers portals. Imagine if every Disney hotel guest has a NextGen wristband, and they all were trying to trigger little animations and go on individual quests around the parks. The standby lines at Soarin' might seem quick by comparison.
So a huge part of the NextGen testing won't just be making sure that the cards let you on the ride or trigger an animation when you tap them at the check-in station. It will be developing the mathematical models to determine how many pre-determined ride reservations the "average" guest should get in one day. And how many individual interactive experiences Disney can support for each guest each day, without making the wait times for those experiences intolerable.
That's a lot of math.
Until then, if you see a component of NextGen being installed or tested "in the wild," let us know in the comments, or on the discussion board.
I'm curious to see how the Reservation system would work. Considering how confused some visitors are about Fastpass, it seems like it might benefit frequent guests who understand the system.
This will be interesting. When (or if, for that matter) this comes out to the public, I'd love to try it!
Honestly I think it is a pretty cool concept that if properly operated will ensure guests will have the best possible experience without spending 50% of their vacations in line.
RFID wristbands as park tickets, charge cards, and room keys? Great Wolf Lodge already invented this, and the system they have is very convenient. I do have one question, though. What about passholders? I'm sure they're not required to wear their wristband for an entire year. ;)
Sounds like they could really use your great math mind, Robert- perhaps you should offer your services... :)
"But Disney also wants its NextGen media to be able to trigger interactive animation at selected locations around the resort."
Well, you need to bring your current AP card to get into the park, so if cards are replaced by wristband (and I don't know that they will be, but that's something that's been kicked around, from what I've heard), then that'd be the way you get past the front gate anyway.
Sounds like the future of a day in the park is going to get very scheduled.
I'm curious to see what would happen if you had two different families walk up to something at the same time. Would it cause the system to shutdown during the special interactive part?
I don't care much for a wristband. Neither do I care for the lanyards that people wear. Am I at work? Am I 2 years old? Why am I being tracked? It is so unnerving. I think it will have an opposite effect. How about avoiding all that hassle? I suppose Disney is trying to make things easier for people, but I have my doubts. I don't think they solved the problem of ride capacity. The queues will be overloaded. People will not be served. You're just a number. What's missing is the hidden bar scan tattoo at the back of your neck.
This is my reaction to these developments at the World.
Whatever they decide I hope it isn't the non-removable wristband option. We recently stayed at an hotel on Tenerife where they asked us to wear plastic ID wristbands at all times or risk being refused entry to the restaurant. We refused. There was no way that we were going to spend our vacation in high temperatures, on beaches, travelling and visiting other restaurants and bars, with blue plastic bands on our wrists. They're obtrusive and uncomfortable and presume that the wearer is incapable of being responsible or sensible enough to carry any other form of ID.
I think people are overestimating the negatives, if they're any. Xpass for the most part, will be like Extra Magic Hours that have little impact on non-resort guest. The technology to track people is already somewhat in use. If you stay at a hotel, they know when you use that card in the room or to buy things. They know when you get a Fastpass or use Photopass, they know...
Ah, thank you Robert. I was thinking more along the lines of a sensor detecting when people walked up. Hmm. This will definitely be something to see. I'm not sure if I want to wait in line for it yet, but I also didn't think we would enjoy the Kimpossible at Epcot. My boys thought it was one of the greatest things ever. I was impressed, but not to the point of wanting to wait in line for it. This will be something though that will keep people talking and watching what Disney will do in the future. The talk will lead to curiosity which will then lead to more people wanting to visit the parks. In the end, more money and hopefully more rides and improvements for the rest of us.
Robert is incorrect when he says that RFID requires tapping or you being in close proximity to a receiver unit. The latter is sort of true, but RFID (Radio-Frequency-IDentification) absolutely can be read by someone who is just walking by and depending on the scanner it can be read at some distance and speed as well.
I explained this the way that it was explained to me that Disney would implement the tech. Part of their concern in testing is ensuring that activations happen when and how they're intended, especially when Disney gets to the point of having RFID tags activate animation in the park.
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