Disney ‘magic bands’ make Tomorrowland real

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Photo by Chris Harrison/CC/Flickr

Picture yourself in line for Space Mountain. The wait is taking longer than expected. Without warning, Jack Sparrow and Snow White rush you with a coupon for a free ice cream and a Disney hug.

That’s not futuristic; that’s reality thanks to the company’s new wrist band technology, according to Cliff Kuang, editor at Wired Magazine. Kuang, who spent two years researching and reporting on the roll-out of the so-called Magic Bands for Wired. He told “Which Way LA?” that the bands are one of the “most consequential pieces of design in a decade.”

“You can swipe into rides. You can make reservations at restaurants and have your food appear before you’ve even identified yourself to anybody. They’ll just find you in the restaurant because of the wristband.”

Kuang called this “removing the friction” of people’s lives.

Disney's Magic Band
Disney’s Magic Band (The original image is no longer available, please contact KCRW if you need access to the original image.)

Of course, convenience for the visitor is not Disney’s sole goal. For one thing, the company wants to influence people’s experiences so they remember their time at the park fondly and return. And tracking every guest’s movements around the park in real time allows Disney to perform instant traffic-control and encourage people to go to certain rides using incentives. The less time people spend in lines, the more time they have to spend money (with a swipe of the wrist). Most importantly, Disney will have easy access to that big data that all companies covet.

Kuang said Apple and Google only wish they could convince people to give the kind of total control to them as Disney fans are willing to hand over to Mickey Mouse.

The bands are fully implemented in Orlando’s Disney World. Company officials have said they could roll out at Anaheim’s Disneyland by 2016.