We recently looked at seven attractions that Disney will likely never build again in their theme parks, everybody told me that while the list was accurate, it was also depressing. Today I want to offer a little more hope (in most cases) with ten technologies I expect to see in Disney use in its resorts and attractions soon.
I wrote about some of these in my book “Dispatch from Disneyland” back in 1999 by extrapolating from some very early experiments Walt Disney Imagineering was doing a the time. It’s great to see some of these becoming less speculative fiction and more non-fiction.
1. Increased personalization – This is one of the true promises of MyMagic+ and the RFID and NFC chips that make it possible. As a guest, you won’t just just hear or see your name or image in an attraction, but attractions will change their environment around you based on your preferences. For instance it could adjust sound level, brightness, scariness factor, etc.. Disney can analyze your shopping, dining, and attraction patterns and make suggestions on merchandise, food locations, and attractions may have have missed or when a short line is available for a suitable attraction. The list is pretty much endless and the technology to do most of this is here today.
2. Augmented reality – We’ve seen limited use of virtual reality in Disney Quest, but AR is more about laying facts, data, experiences on top of our existing reality resulting in a more immersive, connected experience. Aurasma is just a parlor trick compared to what we could see here. 3D Augmented Reality is in the near future. There are any number of demo videos out there, here’s a semi-recent one where it’s easy to see some of these ideas translated into theme park experiences.
3. Self-driving Podcars – Yes, it’s the future WALL-E warned us about, but just like the Monorail was the future of transportation back in 1959, the autonomous self-driving podcar is the future of all transportation. Walt Disney World is the perfect place to model this. I wrote a little about this before. The technology has become much more advanced in the last 18 months and Google even has a prototype vehicle which would work perfectly within the confines of Walt Disney World. Come on Bob Chapek, make it happen as your first big move as new Disney Parks & Resorts Chair.
4. Minority Report / Corning Glass – In the not too distant future any surface can be made interactive. Remember this video from Corning?
Yeah, that was 2011. They’re getting a lot closer to making it ready for retail. But first, it needs to show up in a showcase location, and really what better location that Disney, right? I mean you could redo EPCOT’s FutureWorld in this stuff and really blow everyone away.
5. Drones – The burrito drone may seem like a practical joke, but in a resort setting like Walt Disney World, having delivery to your room or spot at a water park by drone is a real possibility. Doesn’t have to be food either, could be lost magic bands, a toothbrush, a special gift from Mickey Mouse. Not sure how this would work inside an attraction, but I trust Disney’s Imagineers to figure it out.
6. Haptic feedback / ultrasonics – This technology will allow what you see in the virtual / augmented reality space to feel real to the touch. Disney Research has been doing a lot of work in this area and I expect to see it brought to theme park attractions in the not too distant future (maybe even in Avatar).
7. Wireless recharging for your devices -. Soon, every dining table or theme park bench will contain a spot to place your mobile devices for wireless recharging (see new IKEA table).
8. 3D printed food – I’d actually be surprised if Disney isn’t using this already somewhere. But you can already create tasty desserts with printers that contain sugar or chocolate, more courses soon to be available. There’s already 3D printed Pizza.
9. Roving Animatronic Animals – We enjoyed Lucky the Dinosaur, but it needed a wagon full of electronics and batteries to make it function in a believable manner. New battle ready robots from DARPA are advancing the technology to the point where you could soon have a self-contained dinosaur marauding through dino-land. Watch this video to see how well this Cheetah moves.
10. Self-assembling furniture – Have a party of 2, 4, 6 or 8? The future omnimover will self assemble to accommodate your party size rather than you having to divide up and miss sharing all the fun. Yes, Hiro’s self assembling microbots are just a few year’s off.
11. Peace and quiet – Okay, this one isn’t a technology, but I predict now that Disney has ‘solved’ the problem of families having to plan 180 months ahead where they’re going to eat, what rides they’re going to go on, what characters they’re going to meet, and all the pressure involved with keeping on schedule, next Disney will have to figure out how to bring some relaxation back to the family vacation. My guess is that this will take the form of private cabana style rest areas located in each of the parks. VIPs will be able to get in some R&R while Disney gets them their next Fastpass+ or dinner reservation.
(Lucky the Dinosaur photo courtesy LaughingPlace.com)