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Revolutionary Technology - Disney's Touché

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Published: May 7, 2012 at 1:39 PM
There is an unending battle online over which theme parks have the best tech. Universal's Harry Potter and Transformers expansions have set the bar high. Disney's Xpass, NextGen, Carsland and Fantasyland incorporate vast amounts of new tech too. But the problem is comparing apples and oranges. Both company's approaches to technology innovations are different with different goals.

However, Disney has just released info on its new technology Touché, which will not only change the face of the theme park industry, it may change the world, leaving many, many companies in the dust.

Here is the official discription.

"Touché proposes a novel Swept Frequency Capacitive Sensing technique that can not only detect a touch event, but also recognize complex configurations of the human hands and body. Such contextual information significantly enhances touch interaction in a broad range of applications, from conventional touchscreens to unique contexts and materials. For example, in our explorations we add touch and gesture sensitivity to the human body and liquids. We demonstrate the rich capabilities of Touché with five example setups from different application domains and conduct experimental studies that show gesture classification accuracies of 99% are achievable with our technology."

Some of the applications they describe are mediocre at best to what applications really may be paramount. However, can you imagine what this could do to Disney parks?

Disney Research Pittsburgh is a project that combines the efforts of Walt Disney Company with Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

If you recall, Randy Pausch, the inspirational Last Lecture Imagineer, was from CMU's Entertainment Technology Center. CMU is the alma mater of many Imagineers.

Readers' Opinions

From Anon Mouse on May 7, 2012 at 2:54 PM
"leaving many, many companies in the dust."

Huh? Maybe so, but the examples seem so easy to reverse engineer. As much as I would love to say this is an advance, it is merely the next step to touch screens, and face and gesture recognition. These applications are yet to be implemented, but they could be in the next generation of devices, which in today's technology timeframe means 3 to 5 years. If Disney wants be ahead of the competition, it needs to do something rather quickly or watch the advantage disappear. Seeing that Disney never had an answer to Universal's Spiderman, I wonder when they will bother.

Some immediate benefits is hotels and EPCOT's many exhibits. I don't see where they will go with theme park rides. It isn't so much that some attractions could benefit from interaction. The problem is Disney fails to create remarkable visual effects that could take advantage of guest inputs.

From TH Creative on May 7, 2012 at 3:57 PM
This is VERY exciting stuff as it maintains the company's commitment to chart a direction based upon innovation. What's so refreshing about WDI is its commitment to pursue concepts and to design attractions based upon the re-invention of the park experience. WDI does not respond to the developments in other parks. WDI charts its own course.
From 72.204.131.77 on May 7, 2012 at 4:24 PM
Responding to TH comments of "WDI does not respond to the developments in other parks. WDI charts its own course." Isn't that the problem? Where is the response to Harry Potter, Spiderman, Transformers? Disney doesn't even come close. Huge Disney fan but have never understand how other parks such as Universal can outshine Disney for less money spent. Spending the money on pie in the sky projects means nothing without real world reality. Disney makes money because of there marketing of films, tv and merchandise but when it comes to technology it fails compared to Universal outsourced projects. The Touche' didn't seem like anything new. Didn't Apple patent hand gestures last year to control tv, phones, computers etc similiar what mentioned in the video? Microsoft gaming too had there hands in this. Seems like a college student project rather than something that could be revolutionary.
From steve lee on May 7, 2012 at 6:32 PM
Wake me up when they invent something that can keep jerks from throwing crap off roller coasters so we can get the Dragons dueling again.
From Tom Rigg on May 7, 2012 at 7:16 PM
This is pretty incredible stuff. I think it is easy to miss the deep impact this could have as it is so simple in its interface, but this could truly revolutionize so many fields. I work in a situation where I have to dispense medications and I could see this type of technology being used to build in an easy source of redundancy in the checking process. Healthcare, hospitality, education, food service, the list is endless of ways this could be used. This really stands with some of the other amazing innovations we've seen from Disney. Linear Induction Travel, animatronics, Conservation Waste Treatment facilities. I really feel like this type of progress is one of the true dreams of Walt Disney himself: innovative ways to constantly improve the lives of all people, not just theater and park goers.
From Dominick D on May 7, 2012 at 7:36 PM
I think this is pretty cool.
From N B on May 7, 2012 at 8:25 PM
How about a practical application that would help save lives like an alarm that goes off when you don't have two hands on the steering wheel?

I had a woman right in front of me in a brand new Lexus SUV scrape the daylights out her rims because the was texting and driving this afternoon. I couldn't help but laugh at her going nuts about the damage (while still holding her precious iPhone).

From O T on May 8, 2012 at 4:16 AM
I still have to see the Muppet Mobile lab and all these other awesome inventions from WDI that costed a sh!tload to make and didn´t become a themepark regular. I for one love the talking fountain at Island of Adventure and it works wondefull!
They can´t make the Yetti to move and their newest attraction, the Little Mermaid is the same old omnimover we have seen a thousend times. Disney = boring and incompetent.
From 199.193.10.250 on May 8, 2012 at 5:30 AM
I'm just happy to see Disney pursuing some form of technology which isn't completely dedicated to digital rights management. Usually everything technological from Disney is about copy protection. Nice to see them out of their normal box.
From Joseph Catlett on May 8, 2012 at 6:17 AM
It seems like a fun toy...but little else. There may be applications this can be used for in small scale but when dealing with vast amounts of people on any given attraction. It doesn't seem very practical other than being an interesting parlor trick for THE ART OF ANIMATION attraction, Innoventions or something similar.
From Rob P on May 8, 2012 at 7:01 AM
Very very impressive stuff.
The downside with this technology is that my wife will be able to tell when I've escaped to the pub without even looking.
From TH Creative on May 8, 2012 at 7:42 AM
The Anonymous Poster Writes: Where is the response to Harry Potter, Spiderman, Transformers?

I Respond: Why would they need to respond to such attractions? Do you believe they are on some sort of deadline?

From TH Creative on May 8, 2012 at 7:51 AM
OT Writes: They can´t make the Yetti to move ...

I Respond: Actually they can. But to do so would require shutting the attraction down for a significant period of time.

OT writes: "... and their newest attraction, the Little Mermaid is the same old omnimover we have seen a thousend times."

I Respond: And it thrills millions of small children and their families annually.

OT writes: Disney = boring and incompetent.

I Respond: Um ... "incompetent?" The Los Angeles Times reported on February 7, 2012: “Disney said revenue for parks and resorts rose 10% to $3.2 billion in the (first quarter of 2012), compared with a year earlier, and that operating income increased 18% to $553 million. The company said visitors were spending more at its domestic parks.”

It seems to me they know what they are doing.

From Anon Mouse on May 8, 2012 at 8:02 AM
“Disney said revenue for parks and resorts rose 10%"

That's equivalent to its annual price increases. So Disney's performance is actually flat.

From TH Creative on May 8, 2012 at 8:30 AM
Anon Mouse writes: "That's equivalent to its annual price increases. So Disney's performance is actually flat."

I Respond: Do you have a source for that? Any published, qualified analysis confirming that assessment? Or any industry analyst contending the parks' performance were flat?

From Anon Mouse on May 8, 2012 at 9:06 AM
"I Respond"

You call that a response? Normally a response should continue with "you're wrong" or "you're right". In your case, you ask for more studies, while not even bothering to defend your original premise that Disney is doing fine. Okay, so you don't like what I wrote.

From TH Creative on May 8, 2012 at 9:21 AM
I did not say that I didn't like what you wrote. I assumed that when you made the assertion that Disney's income increases were "equivalent to its annual price increases" and thus "Disney's performance is actually flat" you had either done some sort of analysis or had a source that had drawn the conclusion.

So I simply asked a couple of questions: Do you have a source for that? Any published, qualified analysis confirming that assessment? Or any industry analyst contending the parks' performance were flat?

After I read your post I searched the net and looked for any analysis indicating that the parks' performance was "flat." I fould some analysis confirming that the revenue was in part due to increases in average ticket prices (meaning guests buying packages with a higher average price). But those same sources indicated that the revenue increase was also due to a 2% increase in park attendance -- meaning the revenue upswing was also the result of increased attendance (above both 2010 and 2009 numbers). The increase in revenue was also attributed to greater guest spending in the parks.

Having said this, I could not find any analyst that has looked at what the company reported and, in turn, catagorized the performance as "flat."

From Anon Mouse on May 8, 2012 at 9:58 AM
"you had either done some sort of analysis or had a source that had drawn the conclusion."

So you don't like what I wrote since you obviously didn't take my word for it and preferred a better authority.

"Having said this, I could not find any analyst that has looked at what the company reported and, in turn, catagorized the performance as "flat." "

Should I say congratulations?!!!

From TH Creative on May 8, 2012 at 10:29 AM
Anon Mouse Writes: So you don't like what I wrote since you obviously didn't take my word for it and preferred a better authority.

I Respond: I didn't indicate whether or not I "like" what you wrote. In fact in none of my posts have I rejected your assessment. I simply asked whether or not what you stated was based upon information from an outside source.

In fact in my last post I concurred with your assessment that a portion of the revenue gains were attributed to higher average ticket price packages ("I found some analysis confirming that the revenue was in part due to increases in average ticket prices [meaning guests buying packages with a higher average price). But those same sources indicated that the revenue increase was also due to a 2% increase in park attendance -- meaning the revenue upswing was also the result of increased attendance (above both 2010 and 2009 numbers]."

Still, I could not find any analysis characterizing the performance as "flat."

I will say this, the fact that the Disney (or any theme park operator) has (for whatever reason) experienced gains in revenue associated with its park operations is somewhat remarkable in the current economy. Further, the fact that the parks continue to attract visitors in such substantial numbers certainly undermines the credibility of OT's contention that the folks at Disney could be described as "incompetent."

From Anon Mouse on May 8, 2012 at 11:23 AM
I will give you a definition of flat since you're looking for it. Since you're still looking for an authority other than myself, I will have to disappoint you.

"Revenue is projected to eclipse the year-earlier total of $9.08 billion by 5.3%, finishing at $9.56 billion for the quarter. For the year, revenue is projected to roll in at $42.52 billion. In the most recent quarter, profit increased 12.4% year-over-year." (via Forbes)

It seems like Disney is becoming more profitable (at 12%) while revenue increases are minimal at 5.3%. Theme park admission prices have increase between 3% to 10%. There is no way of knowing how much prices have increased for food, beverages, and other things, but we definitely know they have increased.

There doesn't appear to be much growth when the growth has to overcome the price increases. You said it could be 2%. It is almost flat.

Compare 2% growth with the US GDP.

"The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the United States expanded 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012 over the previous quarter."

No one can say the US economy has improved. It is merely reflecting inflation.

I do give Disney credit for keeping up with the economy as opposed to a decline, which would be a real bummer.

From TH Creative on May 8, 2012 at 12:44 PM
Anon Mouse writes: "I do give Disney credit for keeping up with the economy as opposed to a decline..."

I Respond: Which (again) would be consistent with my assertion that the people managing the Disney parks are undeserving of the performance assessment advanced by OT.

From O T on May 8, 2012 at 4:24 PM
By incompetent I ment making tech work (Yeti). I don´t care what anyone said but talking big about this amazingingly huge and sofisticated aa and not getting it to work is a bad job and very disapointing, what is next, a non moving Sigourney Weaver asking for a sigaret and swering in the Avatar ride?
They are probably competent in making money. They are clearly focussing on the rich with the high end hotels and Golden Oak stuff because the middel market is getting more and more problems paying back their credit card depts. Still don´t know how they going to make money out of the fantasie land expension, so much money for a dark ride, 2 simpel Dombo´s a few meet and greets and a little coaster ride. Yes the theming is great and it costs a lot but will they pull people away from Sea World and Univesal Studios with that...
From TH Creative on May 8, 2012 at 7:12 PM
OT writes: "By incompetent I ment (sic) making tech work (Yeti). I don´t care what anyone said but talking big about this amazingingly (sic) huge and sofisticated (sic) aa and not getting it to work is a bad job and very disapointing (sic) ..."

I Respond: The problem is not competence (an attribute that would be better identified by one's ability to spell). As was documented in Jason Garcia's article regarding the Yeti the problem is not technical know-how. It's the fact that removing and repairing the effect would require shutting the attraction down for many months.

http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2010-08-01/business/os-disney-expedition-everest-yeti-080110_1_expedition-everest-real-yeti-walt-disney-world-spokeswoman

From N B on May 9, 2012 at 12:48 AM
Just for the record, the "(sic)" addition to your posts just makes you sound like a bigger grammar Nazi. I am not sure anyone cares that you are quoting the thread exactly as is was posted. It also seems like you go out of your way to make yourself sound superior to everyone else who makes a mistake.

I asked my wife what she thinks of people who constantly point out other peoples mistakes, seeing that she is a psycologist. Her exact words were "I think it helps perpetuate the illusion that the person who points them out doesn't make any".

I was very impressed, to say the least.

From Rob P on May 9, 2012 at 9:20 AM
Is it me or does the dialogue between OT, Anon and TH read like a script for The Big Bang Theory ?

I wonder if Touche can detect how many fingers I'm holding up right now ?

From N B on May 9, 2012 at 6:43 AM
At least NB wasn't mentioned.....
From 101.78.139.3 on May 9, 2012 at 7:41 AM
This is a theme park website, so why not speculate which kind of rollercoasters or attractions Disney can create with this technology?

The answer? NONE! How can a ride touch a Human and remember the Human's genetics? Disney would have lawsuits all over the place in this Nanny State that we live in.

Can you imagine a stuck up 'mom' from Louisiana who has a hand poke out of the wall in Haunted Mansion, and the animatronic says 'hello...Davina!'.

This cannot happen these days, as people are too 'touchy', if you excuse the pun.

In fact, Universal's clinetelle, would love this kind of technology, for Halloween Horror Nights, but not Disney and their Princess-loving toddlers.

I don't care if Disney can create some new 'trash collection reduction' device. I want to know how this technology can create the NEXT FORBIDDEN JOURNEY!!

Anyone got an answer, or are we all wasting our time?

From Anon Mouse on May 9, 2012 at 7:42 AM
"It's the fact that removing and repairing the effect would require shutting the attraction down for many months."

Lame on so many levels. (1) I don't think they can repair it successfully. (2) The repair will fail again. (3) A true successful repair will cost thousands of dollars. (4) They might not really have a repair in mind.

Take you pick or any combination.

From Rob P on May 9, 2012 at 9:31 AM
I have to agree, somewhat grudgingly, that the anonymous poster is possibly right about the " Nanny State" providing the proverbial spanner in the works when it comes to actually applying this revolutionary technology to Theme Park Rides.
These are the sort of people who, had they been around at the time, would've stopped the first wheel in it's tracks on health and safety grounds.
I'm hopeful , rather than confident, that Touche will be allowed to enhance and develop new forms of attraction without such hindrance. It really is a mind-blowing concept and , outside of NASA, there probably isn't a better institution than Disney to drive it forward.
From Eric G on May 9, 2012 at 9:46 AM
"However, Disney has just released info on its new technology Touché, which will not only change the face of the theme park industry, it may change the world, leaving many, many companies in the dust."

Don't you think you're being a bit dramatic? The description (discription) is very vague and I would say it's very premature to call this a technology that will change the face of the theme park industry.

From TH Creative on May 9, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Note to NB: I was a bit surprised that you felt compelled to post an assessment of my method for communicating with another poster on a TPI thread. I apologize for upsetting you.

To clarify, I wandered over to Wiki for this reference: "The Latin adverb sic ("thus"; in full: sic erat scriptum, "thus was it written") added immediately after a quoted word or phrase (or a longer piece of text), indicates that the quoted words have been transcribed exactly as spelled or presented in the original source ..."

My intent was less about pointing out a misspelling and more about ensuring that I was quoting someone accurately. Of course your interpretation of its usage could be construed as reasonable and certainly you are under no requirement to consider accepting my intent as explained. You are within your own license to think of me as … well in whatever light you prefer.

Again, please keep in mind, as you were not involved in the back-and-forth between me and OT I communicated in a certain manner. Since I am now aware that you are monitoring what I post on the site, I will be more careful. Please believe me when I say I would never intentionally post anything that it would anger you to the point that it would cause you to discuss the situation with your wife.

If you would like to have the last word on this matter, please be my guest. I appreciate every effort you have made to make me a better person. You're very thoughtful to offer this exceptional level of personal guidance.

To conclude, I wish nothing but the very best to both you and your wife.

Cheers, my friend!

From Anon Mouse on May 9, 2012 at 1:52 PM
"Again, please keep in mind, as you were not involved in the back-and-forth between me and Anon Mouse I communicated in a certain manner."

I take offense. You obviously mean OT.

From TH Creative on May 9, 2012 at 2:47 PM
Apologies to Anon Mouse ... Post has been corrected.
From N B on May 9, 2012 at 8:47 PM
Oh, my Lord.... I wasn't upset. We happen to spend a lot of time in the same room (and together) since we both work from home quite a bit. She was reading a book at the time and seems to enjoy it when I ask questions related to her profession. I wasn't expecting such an astute response.

She had no idea why I was asking and I didn't go into any detail. I just wanted to know what her opinion on the subject was because she deals with human behavior. I think you are just assuming I gave this more than a few seconds of thought.

From Rob P on May 10, 2012 at 2:49 AM
With regards to all the posts on here : I didn't read anything that could have been taken offence to.
In fact they have all been interesting and long may debates like this continue. I don't come on TPI to read people being patronising. I come on here to hear different opinions and viewpoints.
That's what makes TPI such a worthwhile forum to participate in.
From TH Creative on May 11, 2012 at 2:19 AM
This just in ...

May 8, 2012 - LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co's quarterly earnings beat Wall Street expectations as profit rose 21 percent despite a loss from the science fiction film bomb "John Carter."

Strong attendance at theme parks and higher advertising revenue at cable networks, including sports powerhouse ESPN, helped drive quarterly growth.

Visitors kept filling Disney theme parks, and the Disneyland resort in California set a second-quarter attendance record, Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said. Earnings at the theme park unit rose 53 percent to $222 million.

Considering this sort of performance, why on earth should Disney's business model be directed at "responding" to operations and developments at other theme parks.

From Rob P on May 11, 2012 at 5:18 AM
TH is absolutely correct. Besides ,Disney has always been proactive rather than reactive and that's one of the reasons that they dominate the market share.

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