Disney may track park visitors using shoe recognition tech
Walt Disney was recently awarded a patent that describes identifying and tracking its visitors based on their footwear in order to provide customers with customized experiences.
As a guest enters a theme park, cameras would capture their shoe’s color scheme as well as brand and model. Further, sensors placed in the ground would recognize and store shoe size and tread pattern. Individuals could then be recognized by other cameras and sensors as they move about the park.
According to the patent, amusements parks, theme parks other sporting and entertainment venues would benefit from a better understanding of guests’ footpaths. For theme parks this would include understanding the “common guest paths from ride to ride.”
But the patent also suggests that the guest’s personal data (name, hometown, interests, etc.) could be linked to the footwear data to customize the individual’s experience. The patent states, “Recognizing individual guests or providing a method for an individual to register at certain rides or other attractions allows the amusement park to tailor certain experiences for the guest.”
Perhaps the most interesting argument in the patent is that tracking footwear is less invasive than other current methods, even when the individual knows they’re being tracked.
The cameras and sensors at the entrance would be “angled towards the ground” and consequently “easier to conceal” from guests. Similarly, the devices tracking individuals around the park would be “out of a person’s line of sight.”
By comparison, retinal and fingerprint identification methods “are obtrusive and some guests may not feel comfortable providing this type of biometric information to a third party.”
Apparel recognition systems likewise “require cameras that are visible to the person” and may be less reliable as people may take off a hat, sunglasses or sweater during their stay at the park.
Disney hasn’t commented on whether they’re actively pursuing the footwear recognition system. The primary way Disney tracks guests is by using MagicBand, RFID-enabled bracelets that serve as a ticket, credit card, hotel key and FastPass. Officials recently discussed replacing its MagicBands with smartphone technologies.
- United States Patent 9,393,697 Beardsley, et al. – United States Patent and Trademark Office
- Disney Wants to Track Park Visitors By Secretly Photographing Their Shoes Like a Creep – Gizmodo
- Now Mickey can track you by your SHOES: Disney patents system to track Magic Kingdom visitors by their footwear – Daily Mail
- Disney obtains patent to track guests through their feet – Orlando Sentinel
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Does tracking customers by footwear offer advantages over smartphones and other recognition methods? Are other tracking technologies too invasive and obtrusive for the majority of customers to opt into?