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Posts Tagged ‘Next Generation Experience’

Virtual Queue

October 10, 2014 1 comment

Disney’s Hollywood Studios started testing the use of a FastPass+ only line this week, where the standby line for Toy Story Midway Mania has been eliminated, at least for the time being. Guests were directed to kiosks or the MyDisney Experience app to schedule a ride time and not allowed to use the standby line.  

Online discussions about this temporary change have led to some guests being very upset about the removal of the standby line, and being forced to schedule a time. Many have already complained about not being able to just go to the standby line and wait for whatever the standby wait time was, something I find a bit puzzling, considering waits for this attraction can be 90+ minutes on most days.

I’ve speculated in the past that Disney might try to roll something like this out on a broader basis where the majority of attractions, or at least the popular ones would work this way. Some insiders have said that this is just a test for the rumored addition of the third track for TSMM. Regardless, my thinking here assumes that they would go ahead with such a plan. With that in mind, and the uproar it’s caused, led me to an idea on how to potentially accommodate these guests in their desire to wait in the standby line, if they really were to roll out FP+ only lines on a wider scale.

The idea is pretty simple (at least in my head), and focuses around the whole concept of getting guests out of line to wait for their time. Sounds familiar, right? Wasn’t this one of the original promises of FastPass? Yes, it was at least part of the marketing campaign and still is part of the marketing for FP+.

It involves creating a virtual standby queue/line where guests in the park are given the option of choosing a FP+ (scheduled return time), or a virtual spot in line. I’m going to call it “Virtual Queue” or “VQ”, but it could be called “Virtual Pass” or “Standby+” or even “FastPass”.

Essentially, it would build into the FastPass+ system, the capability to allow a certain percentage of guests to use FP+ and others (smaller percentage) to use VQ. It sounded easy enough when I first thought about it, but when trying to figure out how to do it, I realized it was a bit more complicated. The fine details and calculations of how it would work will have to be figured out using numbers I don’t have. However, for the purpose of demonstration, I will use Toy Story Midway Mania, and its estimated 1000 riders per hour capacity. Rumor has it the actual number is somewhere between 900 and 1000.

Listed below are a couple of ways I could envision this working:

1) Fixed, alternating standby queue availability. Fastpass+ and Standby alternate, with FP+ receiving higher priority and more allocations.
Example:
9:00 – 9:10 – 160 FP
9:10 – 9:15 – 80 Standby
9:15 – 9:25 – 160 FP
9:25 – 9:30 – 80 Standby
9:30 – 9:40 – 160
9:40 – 9:45 – 80
9:45 – 9:55 – 160
9:55 – 10:00 – 80 

This would equate to 960 guests per hour – 640 FP+, 320 Standby. The numbers don’t add up to 1000 intentionally, in order to allow some flexibility.

2) Variable, system assigned, next available time. Smart logic to vary the availability of FP+ and leave a buffer of open/unscheduled times for every time slot.

Example:
Each hour can be broken down into 4, 15 minute blocks, allowing for up to 240 guests per block. By default, the system would reserve 20% for standby in each 15 minute block. This number could be adjusted based on demand forecast by the day and/or hour.

FP+ times would be assigned in 15 minute blocks, where every 15 minutes instead of the system allowing 240 slots to be filled, it will only allow a percentage, based on the expected demand for the day. So, if it’s a busy day, it might reserve 40% for standby (96), leaving only 144 slots available for pre-scheduling.

The FP+ selection time process (MDE) would have to incorporate this functionality, and vary the times available in such a way as to allow for this kind of flexibility.

As an added feature, and maybe in order to help alleviate some of the issues that might arise from such a system, the last hour of the day could be left open/unscheduled to allow for a traditional standby line. This way, anyone could ride regardless of whether they had used a FP+ for the day or gone thru the standby line. It would also give those that wanted to re-ride the opportunity to do so.

Here’s how it might look in action:
1. A guest approaches an attraction with FP+only line

2. The guest will scan their MagicBand as if entering for FP+. If they have a FastPass+, and it’s their time, they will proceed into the attraction. If they do not, then they will be directed to a kiosk close by or alternatively, if the guest has a smart phone, they will be able to use the MyMagic+ app.

3. At the kiosk (or on the smart phone), the guest will select the attraction, then they will be prompted for a Virtual Queue spot, or FastPass+.

4. If a Virtual Queue spot is chosen, they will be given a return time.

5. If FastPass+ is chosen, and the guest has not used all of their FP+ options, they will then be presented with the choice of several times to pick from for a return.

The guest can then go about their business in the park, until such time as their virtual queue spot/time comes around.

Optionally, the guest can be notified 15 min before their line entry time, and then be given a 15 minute window in which to use it.

Some operating rules might need to be established to avoid abuse, and keep it running smoothly,here’s a few I thought of:

1. Guests can only be in one virtual queue at a time.

2. Virtual queue is only available for use once a day per attraction for guests in the park.

3. Guests can “get in line” at the normal line entry, via kiosk or smartphone app, but only if they’re in the park.

4. Guests cannot hold a FastPass+ for the attraction for a later time, when attempting to get a VQ option.

5. If the guest holds a FastPass+ for the attraction for later, it can be exchanged for a VQ/Standby option. But, they are not allowed to hold both.

Optionally, offer guests the opportunity to trade their FP+ for Virtual Queue.

If all of this sounds complicated and confusing, you’re not alone. I can’t help but think FP+ and the features it has brought to WDW, have also made things a lot more complicated in planning a vacation. I like the ability to pre-plan and schedule the attractions I want to ride, but I have to admit that it does add more work to the process, and I can see how this might take away some of the fun for some. I guess the question has to be asked, “is this really worth it, just to avoid standing in a few long lines?”.

MagicBand Observations and Suggestions for Improvement

November 4, 2013 Leave a comment

IMG_1540

 MagicBands are finally rolling out in full at Walt Disney World. After a long testing process that started back in spring of this year, it looks like WDW and their guests will be getting these as an early Christmas present! If you’re not familiar with these, be sure to check out Disney’s page for the scoop. Basically, these are the result of the not-so secret project that Disney has been working on for the last few years under the broad project name “Next Generation Experience”. They’re RFID enabled bands designed to fit on your wrist and contain your park tickets, fastpass reservations, photopass id, and purchasing capabilities.

Update: 11/18/13 –  The Orlando Sentinel has reported that the project is behind schedule and being delayed for several months to resolve some of the issues found in testing. Not a lot of detail was provided on how the delay will effect guests. More information and the full article can be found here.

My family and I experienced the “magic” of using these recently, on our 19th trip to WDW in October. We arrived on Thursday, October 17th and checked in at POP century without any issues or real delay. Oddly, when we checked in, they also gave us the Key to the World cards, and told us they were to be used just in case the MagicBands failed. Fortunately, we didn’t need them, as the trip went without issue the entire time we were there. We were able to enter our rooms, make purchases, pay for meals, enter the parks and use them for fastpass reservations we had made online before arrival as well as photopass pictures. Overall, the experience of using the MagicBands was pleasant and uneventful, which made for a great vacation, but I can’t say they added anything spectacular to the trip.

Anecdotally, I found myself frequently looking at my band to see what time it was, in spite of the fact that I haven’t worn a watch in almost 7 years. It’s kind of ironic too, considering that I decided to stop wearing watches on a previous vacation to WDW and feeling like I was somewhat slave to the time and just wanted to enjoy myself and NOT worry about the time.

Now that I have my general review and comments out of the way, I would like to point out some observations, and suggestions of how I think Disney could improve MagicBands.

 Paypoint3Purchasing

We didn’t have any specific issues with making purchases using the bands, but something peculiar we found was in the authentication requirements. When making a purchase for less than $50, they require the guest to enter a PIN that was previously set, which makes sense. However, I found the over $50 requirement a little puzzling. As before, a PIN is required, but there is also a requirement to sign for the purchase. I understand the potential security risk here, and I think it’s a good idea to have a second step, but I think the signature requirement just feels a bit out-dated if not maybe pointless. Perhaps they’ve implemented it this way to verify authenticity if a purchase is questioned or maybe fraudulently made. Or, maybe it’s a hold over from the old way. Regardless, it just seems a bit more cumbersome especially in comparison to the way it used to work with the Key to the World (KTTW) cards or a credit card (one step), and I think there might be a better way.

Purchasing Improvement Suggestion: Instead of requiring a signature on purchases over $50, use a different PIN, or ask for the guest’s room number to be entered for verification.

Usage Tip: The scanner (pictured above) is actually removable. It sits on a magnetic stand and can be picked up by either the CM or the guest to be positioned better with the MB which might help reduce the awkward wrist twist that’s usually needed.

MagicBandGate2Park Entry & Fastpass Scan Points

During our short trip, we witnessed on several occasions, long lines at the entrance of the FastPass return queue. Several times these lines extended out into the normal flow of traffic in the area, creating a bit of congestion. The backups occurred on most all of what would be considered “E-ticket” or popular attractions like Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Rail Road, etc. For the most part, the lines all moved pretty steadily, not fast, but at least steady. I attribute this issue mostly, but not entirely, to the newness of the Magicbands and guests adjusting to using them. I have no way to confirm, but, it also seems like may be a lot more people utilizing FP than before which could be adding to the longer lines.

I noticed that there are some scanners that you have to press the flat part of the band (with Mickey on it), directly up against the scanner, but others are a little different, and you just have to pass the band right in front, either that, or some may just be faster than others. Of course, this could also be a network communications issue where the network or servers were busy and it took longer.

On a related note, we had a CM at the FP entry point of the queue at Kilimanjaro Safaris, tell us that only one member of our group needed to swipe our band for entry. No other FP queue CMs did this during our time.

Here’s a general list of things that seem to slow people down at FastPass return, some observed on my own, others were comments from a discussion thread on WDWMagic:

  1. Incorrect placement of the band on the receiver (Mickey Head). This could be adults who can’t seem to get it to align properly, or kids who can’t reach the receiver and need assistance.
  2. Slow response from receiver/system. Sometimes after reading your band the light will circle on the receiver (white) two or three times before turning green, indicating you’re FP time is within the window and you’re clear to proceed.
  3. Un-informed/trained guests who don’t understand how to use them. Some guests seem to think that just because they have a band, it means they automatically get to use the Fastpass entrance to the ride.
  4. Guests not wearing their bands on their wrist, or who don’t have them readily accessible for scanning.
  5. Family or group whose times don’t all align with each other, but they try to all enter together.
  6. Wrong times, or times that maybe shifted from what they were originally?

None of these issues are show-stoppers really, they just slow things down unnecessarily. Some of them are easily corrected by additional training and education for both CMs and guests, and some of these are just the newness of the bands and will ease over time. However, there are still a couple of areas here where I think they could improve.

One other comment I heard was that the paper Fastpass, while wasteful and problematic in itself sometimes, seemed like it was faster for both the guests and Cast members. A CM could quickly look at a bunch of FPs and see their times were all together or at least close enough and let them go in. But, with the electronic version, there is no visual, until each person swipes their bands, which takes a few seconds more. And, since the times are now being checked by a computer, it’s likely a bit more strict with early or late arrivers, although, this should be easily adjusted. Again, some of this is just the newness, and most of these issues will be worked out, but I have to wonder too if this might be a case where the old way could have a slight advantage. MyMagic -with-MagicBand-05-1024x681

Improvement Ideas for MagicBand and Fastpass efficiency:
1) As you can see in the picture above, the scanner/reader is at the the top of a 4 foot tall (estimated) pole that is usually themed to the area or attraction. Enhance the readers and expand the scanning zone. Instead of having a small scanning circle that is set at a fixed height, change the readers and use a vertical scanning sensor that runs from 18″ to the top of the pole.  So, no matter the guest’s height or how/where the guest holds their band, the sensor should be able to read it. Obviously, these should also be added at the front gates of the parks as well.

2) Replace the Mickey/circle head with a screen or digital display that would show the guest’s names, party size and FP return time in a way that is visible to both them and the CM.  Optionally, add an audio cue, either a voice or different sound that would identify the situation.

I think these changes, would greatly improve the situation as well as make it easier for both the CMs and guests in understanding and hopefully resolving some of the aforementioned problems that can happen.

I’ve heard there are kiosks around the parks where guests can swipe their bands and make or change FP times, but either I wasn’t looking for them, or they’re MIA in the parks. Regardless, it seems  there should be more of these scattered around and perhaps more visible.

IMG_1721  IMG_1724
Which of these looks easier?

 Room doors

Just look at my pictures above. I’m not necessarily saying one is better than the other, but… one of them might be easier for some people, like me.

General Improvement Suggestion: One thing that seemed pretty obvious in all of our usage of the bands, whether at purchasing, gate entrances, Fastpass or room entry was the very strict requirement of having to physically touch the Mickey head on the band to receiver. I don’t know if it’s possible using the system they have, but the radio signals could be turned up in power to allow for quicker/easier scanning. I don’t know if it’s possible using the system they have implemented, but the radio signals could be turned up in power to allow for quicker/easier scanning. We use a system like this where I work, and it’s proximity based which doesn’t require physically touching. The reader and device can detect each others’ signal just by passing within close proximity, which is usually about an inch. If this were possible, it would make the system a bit more user-friendly and possibly even quicker.

If I can offer an honest critical review, I would say that overall, the MagicBand “experience” seems almost negligible. For the average guest staying on-property, the added benefit would seem almost insignificant, except for the added ability to pre-select or reserve fastpass times, which for some is huge. Admittedly this is a nice feature that is easy to use and comes in handy at times, but for me at least, it’s not a game changer. Aside from this new “feature”, I don’t really see a huge value for the guest, and it’s certainly not enough when comparing WDW to their competition.

I fully understand this is version 1, and there are going to be problems and adjustments that need to be made. By writing this, I’m hoping that someone at Disney will see it and consider some of my suggestions for improvement when the time comes. Perhaps you’ve used it and had your own ideas on how they can improve, if so, please add them.

Magicband Mystique

February 20, 2013 Leave a comment

Much has been said about Disney’s NextGen project by myself and many others in the Disney community, but the recent public inquiry by Congressman Ed Markey regarding their intended use of the RFID enabled Magicband has brought quite a bit of interest Disney’s way, and not all of it is flattering. In fact, much of it seems to border on fear and perhaps even paranoia over Disney’s use of this new tech. It seems that many have an irrational fear regarding the new MagicBand suggesting that Disney is going to use this somehow to “spy” on guests in a George Orwell, 1984, Big Brother style.

Nextgen_bracelet

Disney’s Notorious MagicBand

It is true that with this new technology there is a huge potential for them to collect a lot of personal data on guests and while I have no proof to show to the contrary, I just can’t fathom that this new system will be THAT comprehensive or devious in its use. As best I’ve been able to surmise, the system will have the ability to loosely track guests movements thru the parks, at the front gates when they enter, in gift shops and restaurants when they make purchases, at the queues of rides where they’ve chosen to use a Fastpass+, as well when they get photos with a Photopass+.

So, the big question everybody seems to be asking, is why? What does Disney want to do with this? How are they planning to recoup the $1.5+ billion (rumored to be 2 now) investment they have made? The answer most seem to gravitate toward is that Disney intends to secretly sell guests personal information to third parties, but I just can’t accept that. Perhaps I’ve drank too much of Mickey’s Magical Koolaid, but this just sounds like a really bad idea for a company as smart and savvy as Disney. Am I giving them too much credit?

I’ve thought about this for a while, and tried to figure out what they could possibly do with the known data points, but first, let’s take a look at what those might be, then we’ll try and figure out how they might use the data.

The list below are the known RFID scanner points that are being installed around WDW property and the potential data elements that might be collected from the guest:

  • Hotel room door (Enter/exit times, location, time in room)
  • Park entrance gates (Enter, exit times, location)
  • FastPass+ Ride Queues – (Scheduled time, arrival time, possible ride time, estimated exit time, location)
  • Gift Shops/Stores – (Individual Purchases, location, estimated time in store)
  • Photopass+ – (Time, Location)
  • Restaurants – (Entry time, Order time, Location)

There may be others, but these are the ones I’ve read about so far. I could foresee readers added at bus stops in the future to help with bus scheduling.

So, here’s a few ideas of what I think can be done with this data.

Hotel room –

  • notify hotel management – this could be used for emergency notifications in case of fire or bad weather, it would give management a more detailed view of how many guests are at the hotel and where
  • deliver baggage/packages  – If they know you’ve checked back in to your room, they can deliver your stuff
  • activating or waking up the environmental (heat & A/C) systems energy saving mode.

Park Entrance/Park Ops

  • Transportation management – Identify which resort guests come from, or if from parking lot, allows for better management at end of day with more precise resources (boats/capatains, buses/drivers)
    Also, if there is a rainstorm or other event that causes a mass exodus prior to closing, they could know and automatically queue transportation.
  • Plan vs Actual – If guests take advantage of the advanced features such as FP+ ride reservations and Dining reservations, the systems could automatically adjust if guests change their minds or for some reason don’t go to their pre-planned destination. For example, if a family reserved FP+s for Space Mountain, 10am, but they still had not left their room at Animal Kingdom Lodge by 9:45, the system would automatically release the reservation they had for someone else to use. The same would work for dining. 
  • Dining reservations – It would be assumed that if a guest is in the park for which they have a dining reservation, they would likely be using the reservation at the time they scheduled. However, if for some reason, they left the park, the reservation might automatically cancel or be released for someone else to use. The system could also verify the cancellation with the guest before cancelling.

FP+ Ride Queues

  • Exact number of riders in queue / on-ride
  • Exact wait times (no more red lanyards)
  • FP+ Usage
  • Age
  • Gender

Gift Shop

  • Purchases – Sure, they could profile you, based on what you buy.  Your preferences, colors, sizes? Although, I have to wonder how well this would work for us since we buy not just for ourselves but friends and family too. 
  • Spending habits – How much you spend on various types of merchandise, clothing, toys, jewelry, etc. 
  • Resort level spending 

Dining

  • Food preferences
  • Allergies
  • Amount of food you eat – portion sizes? frequency?

Other data

  • Time you spend in park
  • Time you spend in room
  • Touring habits  – early riser and arrival at opening, sleep in with later arrival, park closer, mid-day breaker, etc
  • Attraction preferences and types
  • Hotel Preferences, room preference, bed preference, pillow, towels, etc
  • Time of year preference to visit (this could be via a questionaire, or an accumulation of data over multiple visits), serves the purpose of tailoring a custom promotion/advertisement for you and your family

When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.
A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

In my limited and somewhat rose-colored thinking, I’ve come up with but a few ideas here, but I’m sure they have many more ways they will choose to use this data. However, based on everything I’ve been able to find concerning NextGen, points to Disney simply trying to find new ways to improve the guest experience in hopes of influencing them to spend more money, with the thought being a happy guest will spend more money, and choose to come back sooner. Yes, it seems they will achieve this via data mining and using the new technology to provide them with more detailed feedback, but it’s more about streamlining the experience as far as I can tell. Mind you, there may be more involved that they’re not spelling out, but the following is just some of what I’ve found in patent applications.

Patent – 7720718 – Management of the flow of persons in relation to centers of crowd concentration
A goal of this invention is to improve the desired functionality needed to derive increased guest satisfaction, additional revenue opportunities and resort differentiation.

Patent (application) – 20120271834 – Managing experience state to personalize destination visits
A method for managing distribution of entitlements, such as personalized or enhanced experiences at a destination such a theme park.
-For example, the operator may change arbitration rules based on data mining that may indicate that entitlements have not been distributed as desired (e.g., experiences were being provided in a too concentrated manner to a small fraction of visitors, experiences were not being delivered to preferred customers as often as desired, and due to other business rules/goals). In other cases, the I/O devices may be used to alert operators of the management system when a visitor is about to leave a facility without receiving one or more experiences (which they may have purchased the entitlement to), and the operator may the take proactive steps to try to provide the visitor with the experience or to take later steps to make up for the missed opportunity (send the visitor a free pass or gift).

Patent application – 20130018661 – Guest experience management system and method
An exemplary computer implemented method comprises receiving information from a guest, determining a guest strategy based on the information received from the guest, and generating a schedule for the guest visit based on the guest strategy.
-One disadvantage at many theme parks and amusement parks is the long lines that guests face to enter the park, at the attractions within the park, and when purchasing food at mealtimes. Long wait times for attractions in particular detract from the guests experience, not just from the time spent standing in lines, but also by causing the guest to rush from attraction to attraction to maximize the number of popular attractions, without taking time to notice or enjoy the other offerings of the theme park such as music, live entertainment, restaurants, shops, etc.
-Additionally, guests that rarely frequent the park are typically unfamiliar with the layout of the park as well as with the peak times for more popular rides. This can further decrease those guests enjoyment, as they may take circuitous routes in order to try and visit as many attractions as possible, and may cause them to experience even longer lines by failing to visit the most popular attractions at off-peak hours.
-Different methods have been used to try and minimize wait times in theme parks and amusement parks, including limiting ticket sales on a given day to prevent overcrowding and allowing guests to purchase more expensive express tickets that allow the guest to use shorter express lines for popular attractions. These methods are limited and more prevent overcrowding in the theme park itself, but do not guarantee guests that they will have shorter wait times.
-Similarly, other methods to try and minimize wait times in theme parks include allowing guests to appear at the attraction and reserve a specific time in the future when the guest can return to the attraction and enter through an express line. This method is also limited in that it does not allow guests planning their trips to know ahead of time what attractions they will be able to visit on a given day, and what is the best route through the theme park for those desired attractions. Moreover, such systems will typically not allow the guest to make multiple appointments (manifested as flexible return windows)s at the same time. Thus, if the only available appointment times for a popular attraction are late in the day, the guest must either make the appointment and forego the opportunity to make appointments at other attractions, or risk missing the popular attraction entirely.
-Accordingly, there is a need for a method and system that better manages the guest experience and the wait times at theme parts, amusement parks and resorts.

I should add that this last one includes a whole lot more detail about providing customized experiences, not just more FP+s, but interactive elements and special effects made available for specific guests based on what “experience level” they purchased. (This could point to a new ticket pricing structure.)
I could cite more examples, but I think this should suffice (for now).

 

Experience Type – pre-planned package arrangements? 

In Disney’s recent DisneyTime sweepstakes they held (early 2013), they were asking guests to pick from a variety of “experiences” they would like to win. These or something similar could be used in the future to help guests in tailoring their visit with  pre-planned activities or events that would be automatically selected for them should they choose to go this route. Listed below are the choices Disney offered:

Character Cuddles and Happy Happenings. Includes:

      • One (1) Disney’sMagical Celebration “in room” décor, as chosen by Sponsor, in winner’s Walt Disney World® Resort hotel room [winner’s room only];
      • One (1) Disney Character Dining experience for four (4) persons, and
        VIP viewing for one (1) Disney Theme Park parade or show for four (4) persons.
      • Parade and/or show selection and date of experience is at the discretion of Disney.  Based on availability. Restrictions apply.

New Discoveries and Magic Makeovers. Includes:

  • One (1) Disney’sMagical Celebration “in room” décor, as chosen by Sponsor, in winner’s Walt Disney World® Resort
    hotel room [winner’s room only];
  • Up to two (2) Bibiddi Bobiddi Boutique Princess Package makeovers (Guests ages 3 to 12 can choose from 3 hair styles—Fairytale Princess, Disney Diva and Pop Princess) or up to two (2) Pirates League experiences;
  • Disney’s Family Magic Tour for up to four (4) people, and
  • One (1) Disney Character Dining experience for four (4) persons.

Wild Fun and Amazement. Includes:

  • Ticket upgrade to include the Water Park Fun & More Option;
  • Wild Africa Trek for up to four (4) people. Must be at least 8 years old and at least 48” inches tall, and
  • Fantasmic! Dining Package for four (4) persons. 

Big Thrills Beyond the Theme Parks. Includes:

  • Ticket upgrade to include the Water Park Fun & More Option;
  • One (1) Disney Shopping Spree with a maximum value of five hundred dollars (US$500), and
  • Choice of recreational experiences such as, but not limited to, boat rentals, kayaking, bass fishing, spa, miniature golf with a total a value up to five hundred dollars (US$500).

Grownup Fun and Romance. Includes:

  • Ticket upgrade to include the Water Park Fun & More Option,
  • Signature Dining experience for up to four (4) people,
    Choice of spa experiences or one round of golf for up to four (4) people with a total value of eight hundred dollars (US$800), and
  • A night at Downtown Disney Area, featuring unique shopping and dining, as well as exciting nighttime entertainment, for four (4) people with a total value of four hundred dollars(US$400);

One final thought: It’s remotely possible Disney could have a second or third phase planned for this that is even more encompassing. A couple of years ago (Aug, 2010), Disney tried out a queueless waiting system http://bit.ly/XyRDGS  at Rock N’ Rollercoaster and from what I hear, they’ve implemented a form of this on the new Dumbo queue. Consider, if all of the attractions are linked to FP+, Disney could conceivably set up all queues in this way where guests could pre-schedule their entire park visit ahead of time. Or, a computer would do it for you based on a pre-selected experience type. Then you would simply show up at the park and mill about shopping, eating, playing interactive games or just sight-seeing until you get notified of your ride time. Whether that’s part of the ultimate plan, will have to just wait and see.

One more final, final thought: With ticket prices inching closer to the $100 mark, many have questioned whether a day at the park(s) is really going to be worth that much. Will visitors be willing to pay THAT much for a ticket? Rumors have been floating around that all of the big players are looking into alternative ticketing strategies that would ease the impact of raising tickets to this price. Speculation on my part (again), but with the MagicBand technology, Disney could implement a tiered ticketing system, offering the guest varying levels of “experience” types, similar to those above. This would be a similar model as the airlines, hotels and rental car companies, where if you pay more, you get more. For example, they might have a Premium Experience level that has 4 FastPass+ options, a Table Service credit, and free drink refills, then maybe a Standard Experience level that would include 3 FastPass+ options, a Counter Service credit and a free drink refills, then they would have a Basic Experience with just 2 FastPass+ options and nothing else. These might be priced at $125, $105 and $95 respectively, just as an example.

Also, if you’re interested in knowing more about what Data companies are collecting, be sure to check out the following link: Everything We Know About What Data Brokers Know About You

References

DizFanatic – Michael DiMare – http://dizfanatic.com/diztech012.aspx

Jim Hill Media – http://jimhillmedia.com/editor_in_chief1/b/jim_hill/archive/2013/01/07/walt-disney-world-is-using-its-nextgen-program-to-try-amp-win-over-the-next-generation-of-theme-park-goers.aspx

Year-end wish list 2011

December 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Here we are at the end of the year, and here I am looking back, somewhat disappointed in myself as I haven’t posted near as many times as I wanted to for this year. Time flies and there is never enough to do everything I need or want to do, which is why I haven’t posted in a while. I’ve had numerous ideas throughout the year, but just not enough time to fully think about, research and complete them. So, rather than go another month or more with nothing new, I decided to just post a compendium of some of those unfinished ideas. Please keep in mind, some of these are just rough ideas and maybe not very well thought out, so consider them “blue sky” with lots of room for improvement.

Virtual Realities

From the beginning of time, children have dreamed of being a grown up, and doing grown up things. What if there was a way they could experience one or more of these? It would seem to me that technology has advance to the point that some of these might be possible.

  • Train Simulator where kids young and old could drive a (virtually) real train
  • Airplane Simulator – how many kids have dreamed of being a pilot?
  • Fire Truck –
  • Semi-Truck – drive the big rig
  • Race Car – NASCAR, Indy/Formula 1, etc.
  • Monster Truck
  • Space Shuttle – be an astronaut and fly into space

This could be built in one of several places at WDW, Imagination pavilion at Epcot or Disney Quest at Downtown Disney.

Test Track Overhaul

Rumored to be on the schedule for a refurb/upgrade sometime in 2012, here’s a few random thoughts of my own for what they might consider in the upgrade. This happens to be one of my favorite attractions, but certainly could use a refreshing.

  • More interactive experience
  • Allow riders a choice of different vehicles or colors
  • In-car “Radio” where they can choose their music while riding
  • On-ride video for purchase
  • Allow participants to choose which tests are performed
  • Use the EMV vehicle technology and enhance the ride, maybe an off-road option
  • Drive thru America/World – different (changing) scenes on route

In-room Concierge / Next Gen

An idea I had recently based in part on a rumored new RFID wristband technology being tested and supposedly rolled out at WDW in the near future. If you’ve followed mine or any other Disney blogs this year, you’ve probably seen a mention or two of what’s being called “Next Gen”. I’ll spare the details, but in brief it’s a big project that Disney Imagineering is working on in secret to re-engineer the parks and resorts. There have been many rumors about just what this project will bring, but here are some of my own thoughts on how they could enhance the guest experience.

In-room concierge via a “smart TV” in the room. This service would show the guests’ agenda and/or planned activities for the next day and allow them to make changes and additions, including schedule reservations for table service restaurants based on availability and preferences. To further enhance the system, it could even suggest a park touring plan, restaurants and other activities based on their family dynamics. To make this even better, a summarized day plan could be sent to your smart phone where you could even make changes as you go thru your day. This is just a rough idea that has a lot of potential.

Castaway Cay DVC

With the apparent success of Disney’s Aulani resort in Hawaii, it would seem the other DVCs built in the right place, might be a good idea. So, why not build out the island that is owned by Disney and used by the cruise line, Castaway Cay. Currently, it appears they only use about a 1/4 or even less of the island. With more work building up the infrastructure and support systems on the island, they could expand the runway (if needed) and then charter flights in and out a few days a week. It could be their own tropical oasis that would make for a truly unique vacation experience.

Ticketing Options

Admittedly, this one is a bit of crazy idea since ticketing options are already pretty varied and somewhat confusing, but just bear with me as I try and hash it out.

More ticketing options

  1. 70 – (Value) Base Ticket – Not eligible to use Fast Pass
  2. 75 – Fast Pass Eligible
  3. 80 – FP + includes One Snack + One Quick Service Meal
  4. 95 – FP + One Table Service Meal (or two Table Service Meals) + Refillable Cup (Optional $25 in park credit)
  5. 105 – FP + TS + QS + Snack + Refillable cup/mug

The optional $25 credit could be used if a TS restaurant was unavailable. Good for use at any restaurant in WDW.Base tickets cost $85 right now.Typical Counter service meal + drink runs about $11-12 ?Typical Table service meal + drink runs about $23-25 ?Typical snack is $2-4 Refillable cup value – $5 (Single day use)If the RFID/Next Gen project kicks off and does in fact utilize RFID wristbands or other electronic forms of ticketing, they could expand ticketing options even further to something similar to the old ticket books that were originally used at Disney Land and Walt Disney World. I’m not crazy about the idea, but what if they had multiple level purchasing options that would allow you to ride a specified number of attractions in a given day. I realize this is a step backwards in some sense, but given that the parks are continuing to increase in attendance spread throughout the year, something like this may at some point be necessary, especially during peak periods around the holidays.

Tomorrowland Shooting Gallery – Space/Future themed

An idea I’ve tossed around several times involves a Frontierland style shooting gallery, only with a space or futuristic theme in Tomorrowland. I could see a side area where kids and adults could blow a buck or two shooting aliens or spaceships with a laser blaster rifle or handgun.

I’m not totally committed to this idea because in some sense, there is a shooting gallery of sorts, Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin, so adding this might just be overkill. But, as a former arcade playing, space ship/alien shooter, I can attest to the fun that I used to experience from such activities. I could never get enough of shooting at space ships and invading aliens from other worlds.

So, that’s my wish list for the coming year(s), what do you think? Anything you would add or change?

Next Generation FastPass

June 18, 2010 2 comments

“Hang onto your hats and glasses, folks, cause this here’s the wildest ride in the wilderness!”

I predicted back in December, that part of Disney’s Next Gen plans would include the ability to log on to a computer from your hotel room and make Fast Pass reservations in advance of hitting the parks. Well, that prediction is now closer to reality via a pending patent number 7720718, filed May 18, 2010, and oddly titled “Management of the flow of persons in relation to centers of crowd concentration via television control”(Update: The patent is actually not new, it was filed in October 2003, and appears to have been awarded/granted in May 2010. Sorry if there was any confusion.)

A method of managing the loading of patrons to an attraction having a predetermined attraction capacity in an entertainment environment wherein patrons are permitted access to the attraction on at least two bases, the first being a first-in first-out basis, and the second being a priority basis established by a prior allocation of a return time, comprising: receiving from a patron a priority request for an allocation of a return time, the priority request being entered on a television unit located at a resort facility, the priority request being received at a central computer that regulates the number of patrons allowed to enter the attraction, wherein the resort facility is related to the entertainment environment and is located remotely from the entertainment environment; transmitting to the patron an allocated return time via the television unit; and filling the attraction to its predetermined attraction capacity with patrons on a first-in first-out basis, without reserving space for a patron having the allocated return time who is not present at the attraction during the allocated return time, and if a patron having the allocated return time is present at the attraction during the allocated return time then preferentially loading the patron having the allocated return time.

But wait, it gets better. How about making Fast Pass reservations from your phone or mobile device?

The method and system further permits a patron of an attraction to use a wireless device in order to gain access to an attraction. The wireless device may for example, be a mobile telephone.

iPhoneFastPass2The patent even goes into what the screen flow might look like.

07720718-020

Here’s where it might get ugly for the non-resort guests and day visitors.

In another aspect of the present invention there is a hierarchy for patrons using the priority basis. Different patrons in the hierarchy are permitted access to a first attraction. A request for an allocation of a space on the first attraction includes the steps of: i. receiving an input from a remote location. The input is communicated to a central computer for requesting a reservation for an attraction; ii. allocating available return times in relation to a level of a patron in the hierarchy;

Different hierarchal models can be established for the ability and right to obtain and use the Fastpass according to different priorities. 1. Guest a. Spending per guest at hotels can determine different hierarchies of access to Fastpass. Thus, the more that is spent by a patron, the higher the priority can be for Fastpass. b. Hotel accommodation in related resorts and environments associated with the entertainment center are allocated different priorities. Where a patron is in a related hotel, a higher priority can be given. c. Different levels and hierarchies can be applicable at different hotels. Thus, more luxurious hotels can have higher priorities. 2. Seasonal differences can be factored into the grant of different privileges. Accordingly, special promotions for Fastpass can be provided according to the season.

I say it “might get ugly” because if you read the whole thing, it allows room for this reservation system to be made available to off-property locations, as a “service”.

In another embodiment, the entertainment venue may offer a service to hotels or other surrounding venues whereby a person may make priority requests prior to their visit to the entertainment venue. For example, a person would use the television and remote control in their hotel room to make reservations for one or more attractions the day before their visit to the venue.

The stated goal pretty much says it all.

A goal of this invention is to improve the desired functionality needed to derive increased guest satisfaction, additional revenue opportunities and resort differentiation

Although, toward the end, they also make reference to a few other uses for the invention, which I found interesting.

Additionally, the system can be used for planning exit strategies from events in theaters, stadiums and the like.

Also, the system can be used for guiding and controlling masses of people in the use of limited transportation systems, such as in public transport systems including rail, air, marine and bus transportation.

It sounds like they envision the algorithms developed for Fastpass queuing being applied to other areas where there might have large crowd issues, and effectively managing movement of these crowds more efficiently. This makes me wonder if they’re looking at the possibility of using it for their transportation systems as well.

Now, before anybody gets too excited or worked up by this patent, you should know that Disney holds a lot of patents, some of which never get implemented. So, why create a patent and not use it? Many reasons, mostly to prevent other people from using the idea, or sometimes even to sell to others for their use.

If you want to see the full details of this pending patent, here’s the link.

 

Next Gen Fireworks

February 12, 2010 1 comment

I keep thinking about what all Next Gen could be, if I were involved in the project. Here’s an idea that just kind of popped out of my head.

I was reading about the plans for WDW this summer and the fireworks and MSEP returning made me think of something else they could do. One of the things I do on the side is program and run lights for my church as a volunteer. We have a new church with a mix of traditional stage lighting and LEDs. I love playing with the LEDs, they’re so flexible in the color combinations and their low power consumption makes them even more enjoyable.

Disney has started using LEDs too in the last couple of years in many areas around the parks. Cinderella’s Castle Christmas lights are made up of LEDs and I believe many if not all the Osborne lights at DHS have been converted to use LEDs as well. So, I was thinking that with the LED technology and Fiber optics, Disney could really revolutionize their parks and their night-time shows and create the next generation of what I will call “Lightworks”. I can imagine multiple ways in which they could use these technologies.

  • Replace or modify the castle walls and spires with LEDs or Fiber optics embedded. The change would eliminate the need twice a year to wall off the area and bring in a crane to hang or take down the net lights. Plus, they could create new lighting effects that could be used throughout the year in a variety of shows.
  • Embed LEDs and fiber optics in buildings, light posts, trash cans and walk-ways. Epcot already has a few areas around Innoventions that has embedded fiber optics and it’s always a neat experience to walk past on the way out of the park for the night.
  • New effects could be added to the nightly fireworks shows, possibly reducing some of the fireworks that Disney uses. These new effects would bring the show down to the guest level making for a more immersive experience eliminating some of the loud noises that tend to frighten smaller chiller and making it a more enjoyable experience for them.
  • Fiber optic strands could be added in and around plants at all the parks, making for neat night-time displays. This could make for a unique experience at Animal Kingdom where they are unable to have a night-time fireworks show due to the animals.

Of course doing this wouldn’t be cheap or easy. But, due to the long lifespan and low energy consumption of these technologies, it could actually be a cost-effective enhancement. The other issue would be painting. If walls, posts, etc have embedded lights, they become much more difficult to paint.

Just another thought on Next Gen.

UPDATE: For an idea of Next Gen lighting , watch the opening ceremonies for the 2010 Olympics or the  halftime show for the 2010 Superbowl. The projection and lighting technologies used for these two events are just an example of some of what’s possible. It should be noted, that Disney is using some of this kind of technology to project light and images on to Cinderella castle after an upgrade in 2008. However, I would like to see this vastly expanded into a lot more other areas of the parks.

Here’s another idea of what Next Gen fireworks might look like. It’s a new project called Flyfire by some smart people at MIT. Basically, they use a lot of small, remote controlled flying objects, like those toy R/C helicopters you can find in the toy section at your favorite retailer, add mult-colored LEDs, flying together in synchronicity using swarm intelligence to produce images and displays in the air. Check out the video for a demonstration.

Thoughts about Next Generation Experiences

January 27, 2010 Leave a comment

You might as well get used to it. Until we have a more definitive idea about what exactly Next Generation Experiences is, (if ever), I think we’ll be discussing it and speculating on it for a while. Speaking of which, Kevin Yee at Miceage had quite a few thoughts here on NextGen and it’s possible meanings and impact. Check it out. While reading his article I started thinking about the implications of Disney spending over $1 billion on this project. Sure, to you and I, that sounds like a LOT of money. But, for Disney, it’s not really that much.

WDW saw just over an estimated 47 million visitors in 2008, which was only a slight increase from the previous year. Now, I’m not an accountant, nor a mathematician, but I like to play with numbers and just try to figure these things out. Let’s say that on average, those 47 million visitors were worth $100 each to Disney to keep it simple. If so, then that would mean they had revenue of more than $4.7 billion in 2008. Of course, looking at that makes me think my guesstimate of the $100 is probably pretty far fetched. But, if you start thinking along these lines, you kinda get an idea of just what a billion dollars looks like for Disney, it’s not that big of a deal for them really, considering the ROI could be less just a few years. Sure, it’s still a pretty big investment for them, but one that many would say is much needed. We’re just going to have to wait and see what exactly $1 billion looks like in the “Next Generation” theme park.

Along those lines, I had some thoughts on my own about what I might do if I were in charge of this group/project and given a budget like this to play with. As in Kevin’s article, the rumors are still speculating that it will heavily involve more interaction and guest personalization, which is fine, and in a way does lend itself to what might be considered a “Next Generation Experience”. I’m sure there are many other things they’re looking at too. But, I’ve got my own thoughts on what I would like to see.

Most Disney fans are well aware of Walt’s fascination with trains and transit systems. It’s because of this fascination that most Disney parks feature a steam train, monorail, people mover, and other similar transit systems. And, over the years Imagineering has used several of these in various ways to move and entertain guests around their parks and resorts. However, while Disney has been innovative with these different transportation methods in the past, and were at one time pushing the envelope in some areas, they haven’t really done anything innovative in the past decade. While I hate to try and guess what Walt would’ve done, I firmly believe, based on history, that he would’ve continued to push the envelope of transportation methods, especially at Walt Disney World, where there is a multitude of guests to move, and more than enough land to play with.

One such transit method that has gotten a good bit of attention over the last decade or so, and I believe he would’ve examined is called Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems.   There are more than 100 different designs and variations on the PRT concept being developed and/or designed around the world. There are even a few that are in operation and very successful. The cost for these systems is reported to be considerably less than monorail expansion, and not to beat up on the monorail, but they’re supposedly safer too, because they’re completely automated which would’ve tickled him all the more I think because it tied into his futuristic concepts and ideas he was always pushing.

One of my favorites is the CityCoaster. Built by a German company, it incorporates roller coaster elements like a track resembling a typical steel coaster and banked turns into self powered, pod-like cars that can carry up to 4 people at a time. Call me crazy, but I think such a design would be fun to encircle Epcot. It could start with a station at the front of the park, then going counter-clockwise, make stops at the Land, front of World Showcase, America Pavilion, back at the front of World Showcase, then maybe somewhere between Mission:Space and the Wonders of Life pavilion and then completing the loop back at the front. The track could run behind the pavilions in a semi-tunnel or open with the right side of the windows covered to block most of the view of key back-stage areas. I know, it’s a crazy idea, but fun too.

Seriously though, while the CityCoaster is a fun concept on the idea, there are numerous others that would seem to be a great fit for WDW and linking the other resorts and parks that don’t have a monorail option. And while it would be neat to see Disney expand the monorail to all of these, I just can’t see them spending the kind of money it would take to do it. The estimates for doing so are all over the board, but the latest all seem to point upwards of $100 million per mile or more, which would eat thru $1 billion really quick. So, the PRT concept would seem to be a much better option considering that most systems estimate their cost per mile around $20-30 million per mile, but that’s considered the high end. Many are in the range of $5-10 million per mile.

So, what are they waiting for? There are numerous universities and major corporations who have been researching and working on prototypes of PRT systems for years. WDW would seem to be a perfect “proving ground” for such a system. And, if successful, a test/trial PRT at WDW would be a major score for the university/corporation whose project was implemented at WDW. Many communities around the world are looking at PRT systems as a way to relieve traffic congestion and pollution. If I were a developer of a PRT, I would be chomping at the bit to try and get Disney into a joint venture to help with the development of my system. If I were Disney, I would be holding open invitations with PRT developers to come and show off their designs and tell why theirs would fit best at WDW.

Admittedly, there are lots of other ways, probably better, to spend $1 billion. They could build a new park. They could overhaul all the parks, and even add a few new attractions. But, think about this. Attendance at the parks over the last decade has grown on average at a steady 3%. That means in 5 years we could be seeing an additional 10 million visitors at WDW, and in 10 years it could be more than 17 million more people or 65 million. For more on this, be sure to check out an earlier article I wrote,  Nobody goes there anymore, it’s too crowded with some interesting break-downs of the data. Well, interesting to me at least.

One last thought about transportation and the NextGen budget. Transportation at WDW got a lot of bad publicity last year, due to the tragic accident on the monorail that occured in July and then some other incidents which were minor, but made the news nonetheless. I’m not suggesting that the monorails be replaced, or that a PRT system is necessarily the answer to solving all the problems. However, if they spent money on anything, I would like to see it spent on improving the monorail system(s). Reading some of the various comments across the web, lead me to believe that the system has fallen behind in some of the technology used to manage the trains. Perhaps some of the budget for NextGen could be directed towards upgrading these systems, and maybe even buying some new trains, if needed.

Update: Television station, WESH in Orlando reported today (01/27/10) that President Obama is set to announce federal funding for a High Speed rail project in central Florida on Thursday. Could part of WDWs NextGen plas include linking a new internal transit system to the soon to be announced High Speed Rail? Disney previously stated they would provide up to 50 acres of land for a station in the area believed to be somewhere between ESPN Wide World of Sports and Pop Century, to the south of Osceola Parkway.  If a new station is built for the High Speed Rail, they will certainly need a way to move people to and from this station. They could conceivably do it using a PRT or even with a Monorail extension. Regardless of whether they choose any of these, they should probably get started now so they can have this new expanded system ready for when the line is completed.

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