Glimpses of the NextGen Theme Park

Would you be willing to wear Disney’s Key to the World card like a lanyard if it meant a more personalized and hassle-free vacation?

Many have assumed that Disney’s rumored NextGen technology may mean that an RFID chip would be imbedded into your Key to the World card; allowing pre-collected data to be transferred to readers several meters away.

But, what does that mean? For some, it may mean not having to carry a camera around the parks anymore.

People vacation differently now – just compare recent pictures to those taken a few decades ago and you’ll see what I mean. Back then, dad had a 35mm camera slung around his neck and mom had her purse. Pictures from today reveal tourists schlepping backpacks and pushing strollers loaded up like luggage carts. Indeed, there are websites that offer long lists of stuff you’ll absolutely need to haul around the parks; otherwise you may not fully enjoy your vacation. Some of the recommended items border on ridiculous. What happens if it rains or you go on a wet ride? Better bring medium-sized plastic baggies to hold everyone’s valuable electronics – just in case.

Forget stroller rental; some of these Orlando-Commandos need two burros and a Sherpa!

In an effort to capitalize off these weary tourists Disney began offering the PhotoPass photography service. These professional photographers are already uploading your pictures to server space reserved specifically for you. What if that server also held images collected from ride cameras (this is already being tested) and video cameras positioned throughout the park? What if those cameras were smart enough to recognize your face, cross reference your RFID number, compile the images and video into your database, use an intelligent rating system to sort good from bad shots, and then insert the best material into open slots in a prepared, date sensitive, and professionally edited Disney vacation video?

Impossible, you say? In September 2010 Apple allegedly acquired a Swedish facial recognition company for $29 million. One of the company’s products, Recognizr, can take a photo of a user and then recognize that same person when shown on video.

Imagine a high definition camera, cleverly hidden in one of the buildings on Main Street, capturing the look of amazement on your child’s face as they see the castle for the first time. On the other end of this camera is a very sophisticated piece of software that looks for faces, identifies them, and copies the video into the relevant tourist’s data bases on the fly. Now, for the first time, instead of stumbling over yourself as you walk backward trying to capture the same moment, you’re in the video as well. And you look natural – no one has that camera smile.

At the end of your trip you could then purchase this video in a variety of formats (DVD, BluRay, MPEG, Cloud) from your hotel room, concierge desk, or later in the comfort of your own home.

I can already see the Disney marketing Juggernaut in action. Commercials featuring Goofy attempting to capture each moment of his [expensive] vacation by lugging around ridiculous amounts of camera equipment juxtaposed against Mickey and Minnie ambling through the park as relaxed as can be. Besides Minnie’s ubiquitous polka dotted purse the couple carries nothing extra other than the lanyards around their necks.

An added benefit will certainly be ride cameras recognizing your face and/or RFID and then calling out to you by name. For instance, on Peter Pan’s Flight, “Alright everybody, here we go!” becomes, “Alright Lucy, here we go!” (as long as Lucy’s dad agrees to pay extra – luxury and convenience come at a cost, after all).

And there’s the rub. What’s all of this worth… to you?

Because, it’s not so much a question of “would you be willing to pay extra?” … it’s more like, “how much extra would you be willing to pay?”. Guaranteed: there will be a cost associated with these perks. I have a feeling getting all of this technological wizardry in place won’t be nearly as difficult as trying to explain to your child why Peter Pan didn’t say hello to him, personally.

Puts a parent in a tough position, doesn’t it? How do you tell your child that the vacation already cost you a fortune and you just couldn’t afford all the extras? What do you mean you had to pay Peter Pan to talk to me, Daddy? You might as well tell your child Santa doesn’t exist while you’re at it!

Disney’s not dumb. They’ve been doing this for a long time and really know how to play all the angles. Even the people uninterested in having Disney record their vacation footage certainly couldn’t turn down their children.

So, really, how much extra would you be willing to pay?

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One thought on “Glimpses of the NextGen Theme Park

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