Walt Disney World Wish List: The Next Step for MagicBands
Disney World's MagicBands can be much more than a high-tech ticket. With RFID and NFC connectivity, these wristbands can put wearers into a real-time information grid that reacts to visitors' presence by doing much more than simply lighting up a Mickey-head logo when they're good to go into a Fastpass+ return queue.
But up until now, that's pretty much all Disney has called upon MagicBands to do: To serve as a ticket, hotel room key, and charge card for visitors inside the resort. In these roles, MagicBands have been performing as little more than wearable versions of the key cards that Disney used to distribute to its on-site hotel guests.
No one who's paid much attention to Disney's MyMagic+ project expects this to be the final extent of the MagicBand project. They've dropped hints about a much more engaging role for the wristbands, one that would allow attractions and themed spaces to transform in response to the presence of individual visitors.
Theme park fans first saw a glimpse of such interactive possibilities two decades ago, when E.T. began saying riders' names near the end of that Universal Studios dark ride. That feature provided a cute novelty, but in an era when video games have become the dominant form of entertainment for millions of fans, theme parks need to develop more interactive attractions to remain relevant. Shooter rides such as Six Flags' award-winning new Justice League: Battle for Metropolis have helped fill this need, but as video games offer fans much more than shooter titles, theme parks ought to be developing a wider range of interactive experiences, as well.
The trick, of course, is defining and managing user input in a theme park environment. Universal did this 20-some years ago by having a team member type in visitors' names and hand them each a card to present for scanning at the ride's loading station. In a modern environment, input needs to be a lot simpler and more intuitive than that.
That is the value of the MagicBand. By placing wearers into Disney's information grid, the MagicBand provides input to Disney's systems that allow them to read and react to the wearer's presence, without the wearer having to do anything buy show up. The rewards can range from simply recreating Universal's "say my name" feature to completing changing the behavior of animatronics or show scenes based on visitors' age, interests or past experience with an attraction.
Imagine a Toy Story Midway Mania that becomes progressively harder as you ride more often, with the opportunity for new levels and higher-scoring challenges in return. (And that keeps track of all your scores on the ride!) Or a Star Tours ride that doesn't simply choose alternatives at random, but does so by selecting options that the fewest number of visitors in the Starspeeder have seen before.
From what we've heard, Disney's Imagineers have been working on creating next-generation applications for MagicBands in Disney's new Avatar land, now under construction in Disney's Animal Kingdom. Given that we expect to hear more about Avatar at the D23 Expo starting tomorrow, perhaps this wish list item is one that we really hear about at D23. No matter what Disney does or doesn't announce at its official fan event, though, we're putting a more creative role for MagicBands on our Walt Disney World wish list.
The worry that I have is that Disney parks are turning into meet-and-greet machines, and the real rides and artistry that was associated with Uncle Walt will be downplayed over seeing your name in Toy Story Mania (still not convinced that TSM will age well, but that's another discussion).
This is good news for the future, but the Magic Bands in their current state really are a great convenience. My family and I will be in Orlando in May and during our Universal portion we'll each have to keep track of season passes, hotel room keys, and Express passes. For 4 people that's 12 small items that can get wet or lost or damaged as opposed to 4 wearable bands while at WDW.
This does nothing for me. I'm perfectly ok with ET or any other character not knowing my name (How egotistical are we really) And random scenes in Star tours is part of the fun. Would it really collect our data everytime we ride for years at a time just so we can see the rarer scene in a ride vehicle of 30 other people? Absurd, given that you surely would have seen all of the variations by that time. Toy Story Mania changing the gaming experience would benefit maybe the 1% of hardcore riders who probably visit the park too much anyways. It would be better that those folks visit the lesser attractions the park offers.
They should put little LED lights in them so they can act like the glow with the show ears instead on your wrist.
I agree entirely with Daniel, the Magic Bands have so far done absolutely nothing to heighten the guest experience, and are just another cash grab and data mining tool. For what the Magic Bands can currently do, Disney could have created an app and blanketed the parks with wi-fi. That would have been a much better use of Disney development money than this boondoggle band nonsense. Do we really need Jack Sparrow to know our names? Selfie culture of narcissism run amok.
While I somewhat agree with a few of Daniel and Tony's points. I think for kids the magic will be when they go up to meet the fairy godmother and she can wish them a happy birthday or can magically guess their age. After all it is the most magical place on earth right? I know this was something that was in a Wall Street Journal write up back before launch of the Magic+ and some people don't want the friends of characters knowing that much information but it would be easy for Disney to add on the MyDisneyExperience App how much information you want out there of your kids or even yourself.
Response to Brandon; You and your family will be able to eat wherever you decide you are all in the mood for as you freely roam about without a series of appointments to keep while at Universal and IOA.
Hmm, sounds like big brother will be watching us at Disney.....closer than we might imagine.
They can't make Toy Story Mania harder unless they offer up something for that difficulty. Otherwise, people will trick the system by getting new MagicBands or different accounts. Of course, Disney probably won't mind people buying new bands just to refresh their experiences.
I think people are looking at this wrong. This is essentially the same RFID technology used (as far as I'm aware) in wands in Diagon Alley. The opportunities for interactivity of this are quite immense, from "casting" spells, to group games (as Disney trialled in Frontierland last year) to altering interactivity for people with special needs.
My wish would be much simpler. Have a scanner like on the rides that you don't have to touch at the park exits so that if you leave the park three hours before closing, it automatically cancels your fast passes for the night so others can use them.
i personally liked the magic bands on our last trip. I dont think they added a whole lot but did have some conveniences for sure. They certainly dont take anything away from the experience as some claim. Could they do more? Yep. and im sure they will in time. Disney moves at a snails pace on everything unfortunately.
I had assumed, obviously incorrectly, that these "Next Gen" applications would be slowly rolling out in the parks as the systems came on line and the FP+ bugs were worked out. I more than expected the talking Mickey at the front of the park to say our names during our meet and greet last fall. However, it looks like they're still behind in getting this technology working.
Is MyMagic+ worth the $1.5 billion that Disney reportedly spent? The average E-ticket attraction costs $100 million. That $1.5 billion could have paid for 15 new E-ticket attractions instead.
I think that the RFID interactive elements that allow guests to engage with an attraction are cool, but they are decidedly the low-tech application of this technology, at least from a corporate standpoint.
Response to 184.108.40.206
Response to Grant. No, I certainly don't work for Uni or Disney.
Grant, the interactive wands don't used RFID. There is a camera that picks up the wand tip and the motion you make. It's close to the XBox Kinect system.
Peronally as well I would like a bit more of the more interesting stuff with MagicBands.
Thanks Jon, I didn't realise that I thought they were RFID with an accelerometer, I guess they'd need a power source too then. Does that mean the original wands from Hogsmeade work in Diagon Alley? I didn't get one when I went simply because I figured they'd be made obsolete by the new ones.
Grant, No the new wands have a clear tip which is what the camera/reader picks up on. Photos here http://orlandoinformer.com/page/articles.html/_/universal/harry-potter/interactive-wands
Thanks again Jon. I have to say, I prefer the look of the older ones. I guess the trade off for the functionality is the aesthetic.
This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.