The rumor du jour for Walt Disney World comes to you from a couple of recent patents combined with a source that says Disney has big plans for merging the theme parks with technology. With something as big and under wraps as this, we don’t foresee this development coming to full fruition for several – if not many – years. Still, it’s something we’ve been told to watch for, so we’re bringing it to our readers.
First off, Disney has already filed a patent for a new tracking system using high powered Wi-Fi systems potentially combined with 5G services and infrared monitoring. Some are speculating that this is to use portable gaming devices in the park, but that’s not what we’ve been told. What Disney is working on is, according to our source, a system by which guests will receive pertinent information depending on where they are within a park. This system uses a vast array of hot spots around the theme park, all bouncing a signal off of the guests’ devices once they enter into to the various coverage zones. To make this simple, let’s say a guest walks into Adventureland and Pirates of the Caribbean has an unusually low wait time… in that situation, Disney might send a message to guests in that area to let them know, thus prodding guests into more efficient behaviors.
However, more exciting for most people is that Disney may also be preparing to gamify this technology so that they can have highly immersive experiences in the park… for a price. Disney has played around with role-playing games within the parks in the past, whether it was Kim Possible challenges or gathering Wilderness Badges in Animal Kingdom. But this new infrastructure plan would allow Disney to increase their capabilities by a substantial amount, and may involve them providing special devices to play the games with while in the parks.
So what might these devices be? Well, a source had told us that Disney might be working on a HoloLens style augmented reality visor for particular guests. These visors would work like virtual reality goggles except they would be fully transparent with only overlays of computer graphics. While this sounded fantastical and outside of what I was willing to report, lo and behold a patent came through that demonstrates Disney is, in fact, working on such a device.
Of particular interest is that Disney wants their devices to be able to map out the geometry of objects in the device’s field of view. Without going too in-depth with how that completely works, let’s just say that the device uses depth perception to map out basic wireframes of geometry so that it can overlay said geometry with various effects. Some are speculating that this refers to lighting, but we believe that the overlay can effectively be anything. With these augmented reality visors, Disney would essentially be able to have characters appear on buildings, scenes play out that other guests can’t see, post wait times floating in the air above attractions, etc.
Now if that all seems far-fetched, trust me, I’m with you. That said, the technology exists and is becoming mainstream. Our sister site, D-Rezzed, recently reviewed the Oculus Quest 2, which sells for $300 – $400 and can already do much of what we’re discussing in this article. It would make sense that Disney would begin planning out for five years into the future with infrastructure necessary to combat virtual reality experiences cutting into the perceived need to travel all the way to a theme park. And while we don’t have much info on Microsoft’s HoloLens or how soon it will be until a company makes one that is highly portable, Disney has to be figuring that it won’t take forever. After all, they’ve patented such a device… and they’ve designed the infrastructure to support it.
The adoption of virtual and augmented reality systems for Disney Parks is in stark contrast to what Bob Iger had to say back in 2019:
“We’re not trying to fake immersion. We’re trying to make it as real as possible with as much scale as possible. There’s a wow factor there that is much greater than what you could ever achieve with VR.” – Robert Iger, then CEO The Walt Disney Company, 2019
But, as with everything, things can and do change. And considering we don’t think Disney will be rolling out a guest-ready version of this for several more years, things are certain to advance and change between now and then.
So how far does all this artificial reality and virtual reality stuff go? Well, that has yet to be seen. It appears we’re at the cusp of much of this sort of technology reaching a point where it’s viable, and Disney seems to agree. Let us know in the comments below if you have any augmented reality ideas you’d like to see implemented at Walt Disney World.
Pirates & Princesses (PNP) is an independent, opinionated fan-powered news blog that covers Disney and Universal Theme Parks, Themed Entertainment and related Pop Culture from a consumer's point of view. Opinions expressed by our contributors do not necessarily reflect the views of PNP, its editors, affiliates, sponsors or advertisers. PNP is an unofficial news source and has no connection to The Walt Disney Company, NBCUniversal or any other company that we may cover.