Why the Magic Kingdom wants to track your feet

Disney World recently secured a patent for foot-tracking technology from the US Patent and Trademark Office that could customize user experiences and gather user data.

Jae C. Hong/AP/File
People crowd Main Street at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif.

The next time you go to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., you may want to think twice about what shoes you wear. Disney World recently patented a new robot to track theme-park guests through their feet.

The technology would help Disney collect data on visitor preferences to improve user experiences, but also “create a customized guest experience,” according to the patent. For example, a park employee costumed as Mickey Mouse could call a child by name without recognizing anything but his shoes.

Tracking the movement of visitors is particularly important to the theme park industry because revenues depend on deploying workers in busy areas and understanding user preferences for marketing, the Los Angeles Times reports.

“The more information they have on the guest, the better experience for the guest and the more they know for continued marketing,” Dennis Speigel, president of International Theme Park Services in Cincinnati told the Los Angeles Times.

This would not be the first feature Disney has designed to improve user experience. Disney World already offers MagicBands, Radio Frequency technology bracelets that function as park tickets, FastPasses, hotel keys, and credit cards. The band is linked to a user’s My Disney Experience account and holds information about everything from dining reservations to PhotoPass photos. Disney is able to track those who buy the bands, but foot-tracking technology would increase the company’s sample size.

Plans are nascent and may not be implemented.

“In our ongoing effort to relentlessly innovate and push the boundaries of creativity and technology to create immersive experiences and legendary guest service, we file many patents annually – some come to fruition and others do not,” Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown told The Los Angeles Times.

If the technology were to be realized, a machine would take photos of visitors’ feet as they enter the park and would pair the photos with a profile given voluntarily by the visitor.

Other camera-wielding robots would be placed around the park to keep track of guests.

The patent claims this is a less-invasive way to track visitors than other options. “Current methods for acquiring guest information and subsequently matching a particular guest with the acquired guest information are limited to rather invasive methods, such as retinal and fingerprint identification methods.

“These methods are obtrusive and some guests may not feel comfortable providing this type of biometric information to a third party. Further, these types of methods may not work when guests are wearing certain accessories such as hats or sunglasses. Less invasive manners, such as comparing a user's clothing or the like, can produce inaccurate results as many guests may have similar clothing or may change clothing, such as putting on or taking off an outer layer or sweater, which can make detection unreliable.”

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