Ever so often I visit Disney World which is an hour away from where I live. This time around I tested out (for the second time this year) ‘MagicBand’: a service that allows Disney World guests the ability to freely roam about the resort with nothing but a plastic band around one’s wrist and a memorized pin number. It currently isn’t 100% rolled out, but this system is part of a bigger $1 billion dollar project to provide Wifi through the 27,000 acres and make your experience at Disney World hassle free but connected.
The MagicBand makes things connected because it gives you the ability to unlock your hotel room door and give you access to the parks. It can serve as a linked credit card and/or a tracker for your spent food points if you are on a pre-paid dining plan. It also automatically sends ride pictures to your account and makes advance FastPass reservations through a mobile smart phone app and internet kiosks littered around the property.
I tested this at the second ‘Very Merry Christmas Party’ this year (hence another non ‘MagicBand’ paper wristband on my right indicating I’d paid for the ‘hard ticket’ event) with a stay at the Contemporary Resort. Having tested it previously at the Grand Floridian I can attest to how seamlessly the band works with opening the hotel door and connecting you to attractions and dining in our outside of the parks. My last visit I made ‘Test Track’ an interactive ride at Epcot and linked my preferences to my band. This created a pseudo personalized experience. I also tested the new “Be Our Guest” restaurant. Although not all digital features were available then…from what I hear, the goal is you order your food on your smart phone, walk into the restaurant building, walk up to any table and the table reads your MagicBand with the items on your food order. The servers then deliver your food to your table because they know where you are.
For my most recent trip Disney took things to a whole ‘nother level by automatically figuring out what coaster car I road on in Space Mountain. It sent my specific on ride image (without my knowledge or any action on my part) to my MagicBand account.
From a user experience standpoint I can see the value of this system. Every day I’m faced with a decision on how much ease to provide to the public through the software I design. There is a fine line however between getting someone’s data for valuable services and getting someone’s data and coming off as creepy.
Now, there is a lot less hassle while I’m visiting the parks. I don’t need to worry about dropping my hotel room key or a credit card I’ve tucked away after being jostled about on a wild ride…everything is nicely strapped on my wrist. I don’t need to keep hold of an additional ‘PhotoPass card’ because my MagicBand serves as my PhotoPass. On ride pictures are automatically uploaded after a ride experience (on some attractions) so I don’t have to deal with the kiosk at the end of the ride (which sometimes has unusually long lines).
As with any advancement in technology however, there’s always that ‘creepiness’ factor isn’t there? Although Disney claims to not track people, it has to in order for this system to work. At any given time Disney knows your relative whereabouts on property and can (with the right algorithms) discern your spending and attraction habits. Although I haven’t disassembled the MagicBand, I’d be very curious as to how many RFID/NFC chips there are. Long range? Short range? Regardless…any way you slice it, the band does indicate your whereabouts to sensors throughout the parks many times throughout the day. Disney doesn’t care about you in particular obviously, but just the knowledge of this RFID/NFC system does creep some people out.
From my UX (user experience) design perspective, we currently are in a social climate where we are demanding more freedom, more speed and want others to have less control over us. We shifted after the mini depression and are kicking it into a different gear: we want lots, want it fast, and don’t want to feel controlled. In my opinion, Disney has only satisfied 2 out of those 3 objectives.
If I was given magical powers, I’d change a few things about MagicBand to align the technology with current consumer taste and attitude (this by the way will change in 5-10 years). Although I believe that Disney leadership wants to provide a more liberated vacation experience, it has to be careful with how their technology is implemented. The North American public right now doesn’t care about technology, it doesn’t care how innovative you are, and it’s starting to be ‘over’ how ambitious companies or countries can be. The public just wants things executed, and executed the right way. Technology crashes, innovation isn’t always helpful and ambitious software can be frustrating (Obamacare website anyone?). Although my testing went off without a hitch (kudos!), the ‘right’ way to do MagicBands in my opinion does require a different approach.
Look for more info on MagicBand here.