MagicBand sensing attractions at WDW

October 24, 2018, 8:24 AM

I've been thinking about this a lot since my recent trip to WDW and I haven't found a lot of information on it. I know MagicBand sensors are embedded in many attractions at WDW as that's how Photopass knows your onride photo (though when we checked the app, there are lots of photos of ride vehicles that we AREN'T on!!)

Small World uses your name, Be our Guest tables know your order...what other attractions use your personal data to customize themselves for your experience? What attractions, other than photo ops, sense your presence for some specific need?

No, I'm not worried about privacy or use of personal data...I am simply curious where they have made use of this technology beyond the obvious.

Replies (6)

Edited: October 24, 2018, 12:33 PM

What an interesting question that I bet Disney wouldn't even be able to answer.

From personal experience and what I've read about the MagicBand technology, Disney has not come close to "tapping" the potential of the system. Perhaps it was fans dreaming up applications or Imagineers actually throwing ideas against the wall, but there seemed to be oodles of potential for the system that guests simply haven't seen yet. From what I've personally experienced, the system can loosely track your location based on where you've physically tapped your band recently, but I don't think the whole "Big Brother" fear of Disney execs looking at park maps on computer screens with little dots moving around representing guests is not real. I've never been given any different FP+ options or "carrots" to get me to move to a different section of the park, and have never heard or read about guests being lured around the park to balance crowds during the day either, so that's why I make that assumption. It's possible that reported feature of the system does actually exist, but it doesn't appear that Disney is actually using it, at least not in a noticeable way.

However, the photo pass and name recognition features do appear to work, though the results are very inconsistent. We noticed as you did Sarah that our PhotoPass account was occasionally loaded with photos that weren't ours (something that's not a unique problem to Disney's service BTW), but every time we physically tapped on a PhotoPass Mickey Head (whether a physical photographer or post-ride display), all of those photos were viewable in our account.

It's a similar situation at BoG, where on our most recent visit, servers could not pinpoint our location within the restaurant because we had placed our order through the Mobile App, and not from the touch screens. I think the system has difficulty finding guests that have not expressly tapped in at the entrance to the restaurant, meaning that if you're making a mobile order and sitting down, they have a much harder time pinning you down because they're not actively tracking your location as you enter the dining room.

As far as the name recognition, we only got that at one character interaction (and I'm not even sure if it was because of the MagicBand or if we had said our names before walking up to the character). My guess is that it's similar as with BoG in that if you tap on a Mickey Head (like you used to do for the Talking Mickey), the name recognition works, but if you're just walking around, Disney is not able to get a clear lock on your MagicBand and the information associated with it.

My understanding is that the newer MagicBand models are a little better, particularly with on-ride PhotoPass (we are still using Series 1 models from 3+ years ago), but I just don't think Disney is pushing the envelope with the technology right now. Their focus appears to be with improving the MDE app. Also, with NFC technology in virtually every mobile device on the market right now, I wouldn't be surprised to see Disney slowly transition to those instead of continuing to pump money into MagicBand. Many hotel chains are already allowing guests to check in through their phone, which becomes their room key, and it wouldn't take a huge effort for Disney to make a similar transition (the technology is virtually the same).

It's quite possible that Disney is doing a lot more with the system then they are leading on, but it sure doesn't seem like it at ground level.

October 24, 2018, 1:28 PM

Russell, we had very good luck at BoG and we did pre-order through the app at home. I don't recall "tapping" in at the restaurant as they just asked for a last name and handed me a yellow rose and in we went. I assume that's how the system knew we arrived. From what I have read, readers are built into each table at BoG to provide best accuracy. Our meals came out without issue in no time upon sitting down.

However, not ONE photo kiosk off a ride worked for us...not one!! We would scan the band and wait, and nothing ever came up. It seemed to work for everyone else. Yet amazingly enough, "most" photos showed up in the app fine. We also just got our bands this summer so I am assuming they would be the "latest".

Also thinking about other MUST be used in FoP. Case in point, the genetic matching room. We stand on a number and the system prepares to match us with our avatars. I did take note, even though mine took forever, males and females were matched with their gender specific avatars. It didn't seem random. If it was, that could make someone upset. HOW DOES IT KNOW!? The magic band account doesn't contain a gender marker does it? It knows your name so is it searching a database of names and decides "Sarah" = "Female" and give her a female Na'vi?? What about gender neutral names?? Do you get a "non gender specific" Na'vi if it can't tell!?!? These are DEEP DEEP questions that need answered! LOL!

Edited: October 24, 2018, 2:19 PM

I believe FoP does the matching based on facial features using a camera in the room. If they were actually using MagicBand for that, it would make far more sense for them to pop your name up on the screen next to your avatar, but that doesn't happen - you end up with some generic Na'Vi name that has nothing to do with the name linked to your MagicBand.

I think I know what you did wrong for the on-ride photos. You're supposed to wait until your photo pops up on the screen, and then tap you MagicBand to link that photo to your account. If you tap below a photo that's not yours, you end up with that photo in your account. If you don't wait for your photo to pop up and link it by tapping your MagicBand, it will likely never show up in your account. I think 7DMT is the only ride where the photos can link directly to your account without tapping your MagicBand at the photo station. They discontinued the Series 1 MagicBands about 2 years ago, so you almost certainly have the newest version, which has a round removable fob that can be placed in different bands and other accessories like necklaces (way more lucrative for Disney they could only sell accessories for the bracelets or sell you fancier bracelets). If fact, they even make a special band that allows the MagicBand fob to attach to your AppleWatch, for those that only want to wear one thing on their wrist.

I doubt Disney would mount sensors at/in tables that are frequently moved around, touched by dirty hands, and cannot be hard-wired. From what I could see, most of the sensors in the dining rooms were in the ceiling (look like wi-fi antennae). Maybe they were having difficulties with the system the day we were there. We were not the only table where servers were rolling carts around asking guests what they ordered.

October 25, 2018, 1:05 PM

From your original question, a couple of SPOILERS...(so if anyone doesn't want to know, turn away now...)

Our last long WDW trip was very early in 2017. So this info is from then:

- On Haunted Mansion, when leaving the ride, some ghost said something like "We hope we can join you on your trip back to California!!". It was surprising and very cool that he mentioned our home state, which obviously on reflection came through the Magic Band info.

- I didn't do Space Mountain with my kids, and I can't remember the exact details at this point...but somewhere in the queue my daughter heard something specific that mentioned her brother and mom's name with hers in appropriate context. She thought it was great.

Since few people are commenting on this, my guess is that they probably have done some of this stuff experimentally. Or maybe it's so loud in the attractions that not everybody notices ??

And in our opinion a very nice surprise touch if not overdone!!

October 25, 2018, 2:24 PM

I experienced the magic band 'magic' at the rock and roller coaster at DHS. Not for me, as I was a mere pleb with no magic band, but watching everyone else be amazed when they saw their name on the posters.

I found this u-tube video which explains the intricacies that goes into how it all works.

You may have seen it, but I found it interesting so I thought I'd share.

October 29, 2018, 9:58 AM

Excellent video Mak! I was not aware of the 2nd component to the bands that transmit longer distances. And BoG uses triangulation which is how cellphone GPS worked at one point to pinpoint your location. Knowing that, I have to return to the possibility of FoP using bands in the genetics matching room.

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