RFID 'magic bracelets' set to tranform the Disney theme park experience

by Phil Davies
by Phil Davies
January 11, 2013 01:34 PM GMT

A “transformational” way in which guests are handled at Disney theme parks is due to be unveiled this spring.

A vacation management system called MyMagic+ is being introduced for the 30 million people a year who visit Walt Disney World in Orlando.

The initiative is part of a broader effort, estimated by analysts to cost between $800 million and $1 billion, to make visiting Disney parks less daunting and more amenable to modern consumer behaviour, according to the New York Times.

Disney is to intorduce wristbands equipped with radio frequency identification, or RFID, chips.

But Disney’s global parks operation, which has an estimated 121.4 million admissions a year and generates $12.9 billion in revenue, is so huge that it can greatly influence consumer behavior.

MyMagic+ will allow users of a new website and app — called My Disney Experience — to pre-select three FastPasses before they leave home for rides or VIP seating for parades, fireworks and character meet-and-greets.

Orlando-bound guests can also preregister for RFID bracelets. These so-called MagicBands will function as room key, park ticket, FastPass and credit card.

MagicBands can also be encoded with personal details, allowing for more personalised interaction with Disney employees.

Before, the employee playing Cinderella could say hello only in a general way. Now — if parents opt in — hidden sensors will read MagicBand data, providing information needed for a personalised greeting: “Hi, Angie,” the character might say without prompting. “I understand it’s your birthday.”

The data will also be used to make waiting areas for rides less of a drag, according to the newspaper.

A new Magic Kingdom ride called Under the Sea, for instance, features a robotic version of Scuttle the sea gull from “The Little Mermaid” that will be able to chat with MagicBand wearers.

Walt Disney Parks and Resorts chairman Thomas Staggs said that from a business perspective MyMagic+ could be “transformational.”

He said: “Over the next several months, we’ll be rolling out a collection of tools at the Walt Disney World Resort called MyMagic+ that will give guests more opportunities to customize and personalize their entire visit.

“Like most people who visit Walt Disney World Resort, my family and I have our “must-do” attractions, and as the father of three boys, those attractions often end with the word “mountain.”

“Now, rather than dashing as a group, or even splitting up to gather FastPasses, imagine booking guaranteed ride times for your favourite shows and attractions even before setting foot in the park.

“With MyMagic+, guests will be able to do that and more, enabling them to spend more time together and creating an experience that’s better for everyone.”

Writing on the Disney Parks blog, Staggs added: “A major component of MyMagic+ is the new My Disney Experience website and mobile app, which gives guests planning their trip the latest information on all Walt Disney World Resort has to offer.

“We know that some people like to plan every aspect of their Disney vacation in advance while others like to plan very little, letting their day unfold spontaneously.

“No matter where guests fall in that spectrum, My Disney Experience gives them the flexibility to plan as much or as little as they’d like to create the exact Disney experience they want.

“They can book dining and other experiences and reserve times for their favourite attractions, shows and more through an enhanced FastPass system, FastPass+.

“Once they arrive, they can use their smart phones to spontaneously change their plans in the moment, exploring our parks at their own pace and getting the most out of their visit.

“Linking the entire MyMagic+ experience together is an innovative piece of technology we developed called the MagicBand. Worn on the wrist, it will serve as a guest’s room key, theme park ticket, access to FastPass+ selections, PhotoPass card and optional payment account all rolled into one.

“We’ve began testing certain aspects of MyMagic+ in Florida last month and the early reactions we’ve gotten have been fantastic.

“This collection of tools is another step forward in the ongoing evolution of our guest experience, giving us even more ways to help friends and family create the unforgettable Disney memories that they want most. We’ll be testing, adjusting and adding features to MyMagic+ and My Disney Experience over time and will continue to make improvements based on our guests’ feedback.”

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