Walt Disney was a genius and a man ahead of his time. He created some of the most beloved characters and films of all time. His legacy continues today and will last far into the future. The Disney theme parks, now all over the world, attract fans of all ages to their gates. The empire has expanded over the years as the Disney company acquires such beloved franchises as Marvel and Star Wars.
What you may not know is that Walt Disney was a grand inventor and that spirit of invention has followed the company through to the 21st century. The company developed cutting-edge animation techniques that evolved through the present day. And animatronics featured throughout the theme parks also improve each year with new technology.
If you visit either of the U.S. Disney parks, or the parks in Europe or Asia, you’ll see lots of amazing tech in place. Fingerprint sensors are used for entry. MagicBands allow you access to rides using their FastPass system. You can even pay for everything with these wristbands. But these just scratch the surface of what the Disney theme park and entertainment empire have in store for technology of the future.
From the interesting to the practical and all the way to strange spectrum, here are just a few of the Disney inventions that you may or may not see in your time.
Drones have become a part of the collective consciousness, and Disney has tapped into that for their own vision. Disney is currently working on ways to incorporate drone technology into their theme parks, perhaps in the use of their amazing displays during parades or fireworks. But one of the potential uses seems a little strange.
The patent filed by Disney is for drones to be used for special lighting. Imagine the scenario: you’re hanging around the park after the sun has gone down. Maybe you’re waiting for the parade or fireworks show to start. Suddenly, you’re being followed by a tiny airborne robot following your every move. And it won’t be just one. Hundreds of drones fly around the park just above the heads of guests illuminating pathways and people.
Drones can be used for a lot of things, but additional lighting seems like one of the least efficient options. But we may never know since they haven’t made it to the parks yet.
Another pretty far-out piece of technology envisioned by Disney is the whisper finger. It’s called by the Japanese code name “Ishin-Den-Shin,” a concept meaning non-verbal communication through mutual understanding.
The tech, while certainly complicated to design, is simple to use. All you need is a microphone and at least two people. Speak a message into the microphone to create a recording. The message is transmitted through the body so when you touch another person’s ear, they hear it like a whisper.
Messages can even continue to be transmitted between people in a chain.
What are the practical applications of this? We don’t know yet and we don’t know if it will become more than just a curiosity. For now, we can wait and see how Disney decides to use this technology, if at all, in their parks for the amusement of their guests.
There was a time when face, eye, or hand recognition technology was just a thing of science fiction. We live in the future now with face recognition available to us on our phones and computers. Hand and finger print recognition technology is also very common, including the use of it within Disney parks. The entry process includes fingerprint recognition technology. However, fingerprints aren’t the only recognition system that Disney has worked on.
Foot recognition takes an imprint of a guest’s shoes. The implications of this invention is still unclear. The idea is to customize your theme park experience, but how? There are no plans to use the technology now, but you never know how that will change.
We can’t even imagine how this information would be used to improve park-goers experiences. Could it make attractions better for little ones? For those who need additional assistance? We’ll just have to wait and see.
Dry Water Ride
Water rides are a lot of fun, especially on a super-hot summer day. You walk in the burning sun to get to the attraction, enjoy the ride and get soaked, and let the sun dry you as you wander around the park for the rest of the day. But there are times that getting wet is not at the top of your priority list.
With Disney’s tech, you don’t have to avoid these rides just because you’d rather stay dry.
This invention allows for riders to sit safely behind a water shield to keep them high and dry while still enjoying the fun of these water rides. Some people might find this blasphemy, but it will give others a chance to enjoy rides they may otherwise ignore.
The patent has two suggested modes. A strictly automated version that keeps everyone dry, and a version where each rider can allow for some percentage of soaking. This can keep everyone happy who wants to enjoy the ride in their way.
Cantilevered Roller Coaster
Part of the fun of a roller coaster is that you know you’re always safe on the well built and maintained track system. But what if the roller coaster were designed so your car wasn’t always as attached to the track system as you’ve come to expect.
Cantilever is an architectural term that means a section of a building with no supports is attached to the main building that counter balances its weight. The most notable, and notorious, example is Frank Lloyd Wright’s falling water.
But how does this apply to a roller coaster? In a terrifying turn of technology, this allows a chassis to be on the track but the car itself, while attached, moves freely and independently from the chassis. It can give the ride designers more freedom to create sharper twists and turns but also allow riders an unobstructed view of the attraction itself.
For roller coaster aficionados, this sounds amazing. For chickens, it may be an invitation to sit this one out. But there’s good news if you’re afraid. While the cars are featured on the patent, the track that can manage them has not yet been designed or invented.
Mood Sensor for Rides
This one honestly seems like it’s straight out of science fiction, but what if a ride could read your mood and adjust your experience accordingly? That would make Disney World or Disneyland truly the happiest place on earth.
This patent suggests that rides can adjust based on the reactions of the riders. Are you smiling? It’ll keep the experience going for you. Are you afraid? It can calm things down to take it a little easier. It’ll use facial recognition to determine your level of fear and adjust accordingly.
The tech would also monitor heart rate, skin temperature, facial expression, eye movement, hand gestures and any noises you make from screams to laughter. It can even move your car to another portion of the ride to adjust your experience. This may mean that age restrictions on rides will be a thing of the past. That kids who enjoy being scared will be able to enjoy those aspects of the rides that yellowbellied adults can just take it easy.
Tracking Your Gaze
There is always so much to look at on any ride. Newer rides, like the Frozen experience in Epcot’s Norway pavilion, offer the latest in animatronic technology including animated faces projected onto the robot body. But no matter where you look, you’re always at risk of missing something.
But with this patent, that could change.
It would use cameras to sense when you’re staring at something and allow that thing to respond accordingly. For example, do you see Olaf in the corner? No, do you really see him? Keep looking. Suddenly, he’s saying something to you and can even use your name if you’re wearing a MagicBand.
This interactive use of Artificial Intelligence could be the harbinger of the rise of the robots, or it could just make your Disney experience fun and customized.
Adaptable Video Games
While the implementation of this goes beyond the theme park experience, the idea that video games can adapt to players and their computers is pretty advanced. The concept allows for the game to recognize things like battery life and adjust the gameplay to save power.
The patent for this particular invention is on the software that runs in the background of the game play. It can sense when your device is starting to lose power and can adapt. For example, it might dial back the animation or have less dialogue that requires gameplay interaction with non-player characters or NPCs.
With the launch of other Disney specific media, such as their own streaming network, things like video games with this kind of tech may be next on the horizon.
If you thought the cantilevered roller coaster sounded scary, then you may want to skip this invention, too. The pendulum coaster is designed to give riders the feeling of swinging on a vine or a web. It’s pretty easy to figure out how they may put this into place featuring one of their big-name superheroes.
Not only would you be hanging from an inverted track, but the car itself would have independent motion allowing riders to swing through space on the pendulum as it ran through the various twists and turns.
This is certainly a great advancement for thrill seekers and roller coaster aficionados. It may appear in Disney parks pretty soon.
Magic Park Benches
If you feel like these inventions are giving you a glimpse into the future, you haven’t seen anything yet. What if a magic hologram could interact with you, and only you, in the park? If you’re resting your tired feet in the middle of the day, a beloved character could simply pop up and have a conversation.
This technology wouldn’t require any additional devices. No virtual reality headset or augmented reality on your phone is necessary. You simply sit down and, next thing you know, someone is sitting next to you.
While it may be frightening at first, imagine how quickly the park benches would fill up if you knew a favorite character would join you?
These 10 inventions are just the tip of the iceberg. The Disney corporation is one of the most prolific patent filers in history. Don’t be surprised when the theme parks customize every user experience from start to finish using technology that allows you to see and do all kinds of new things that we never imagined before. That’s why they call them Imagineers, after all.
The next time you hit the theme parks, now that the interactive Star Wars World is opening in California this spring and expected in the fall in Orlando, pay attention to the technology all around you. What kinds of Easter eggs are scattered throughout the parks to give you a personalized and exciting adventure?
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