Disney theme park and resort tech includes interactive projector for hotel rooms

By Steve Brachmann
October 16, 2016

Cinderella's Castle, Disney World Magic Kingdom.

Cinderella’s Castle, Disney World Magic Kingdom.

The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) of Burbank, CA, is an entertainment company which has built a very lucrative business through the operation of seven theme parks and resorts situated around the world. Disney’s earnings report for the third fiscal quarter of 2016 showed that the company earned $4.38 billion from its parks and resorts division on the quarter, making it the second-most profitable of Disney’s business operations behind its media networks. Disney’s parks and resorts revenues grew 6 percent over the $4.13 billion that division earned during the third quarter of 2015.

Disney is often investing in new theme park attractions, many of which reflect entertainment properties owned by the company. In early October, Disney unveiled designs for a Guardians of the Galaxy-themed attraction featuring superhero characters from the Disney-owned Marvel Entertainment movie of the same name. The attraction will open at Disney California Adventure Park next summer and will replace the iconic Tower of Terror ride. At nearby Disneyland Park, the company is also readying a Star Wars Land themed attraction area which will include rides fashioned after the Star Wars universe, which is also owned by Disney. One of the rides, Stormtrooper Battle Escape, will require passengers to board and disembark from multiple vehicles during the course of the ride while trying to escape a Stormtrooper attack.

image-projectingThe theme park innovations do not stop at the rides themselves, however. Recently, the Orlando Business Journal picked up on a patent issued to Disney by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office which covers a scene projection technology which can turn a hotel room into a multimedia interactive experience. U.S. Patent No. 9405175, titled Image Projecting Light Bulb, protects a video projector having a lamp assembly with a harp to support lamp shades, a bulb adapter configured for electrical connection with a socket of the lamp assembly, a projector powered via the bulb adapter to project light including video imagery and a lens assembly with two lenses for focusing the projected light. The video projections turn a simple room into an immersive environment featuring fantasy worlds from popular Disney movies or television shows and could be coupled with in-room gaming vehicles to create an interactive gaming environment for children. Diagrams attached to the patent show how the technology can be incorporated into conventional table and ceiling lamps.

disney-2016-patent-clusterThe U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues patent grants to Disney regularly. During 2015, the company tied for 158th overall in terms of U.S. patent grants earned by taking in 209 patents that year, a total which was only 1.4 percent less than what Disney earned during 2014. Through early October, Disney had earned 177 patents from the USPTO, much of which are related to movie technologies as well as virtual environments, media contents and virtual spaces, as the text cluster here shows.

foot-recognitionInteresting methods for identifying amusement park guests to create a personalized guest experience are at the center of U.S. Patent No. 9393697, titled System and Method Using Foot Recognition to Create a Customized guest Experience. It discloses a system for guest awareness including an acquisition station for detecting the three-dimensional shape and appearance of a foot and a computing device that receives the foot data and stores a foot descriptor of the person. The technology is designed to provide a less invasive means for identifying a guest than retinal or fingerprint identification, which requires biometric information that some guests do not want to provide.

Despite the profitability of Disney’s parks and resorts, the company’s hasn’t been completely successful in attracting visitors to all of its amusement parks across the globe. In early October, a report from CNN Money indicated that Shanghai Disney, which opened this June, has been attracting less than half of the visitors necessary for Disney to hit its mark of hosting 15 million guests in the park’s first year. However, the company is resilient in its ability to try new ways of attracting visitors to parks with poor attendance rates. Recently, Disney reported that it would be rolling out an Extra Morning Magic program which offers guests the ability to enter Disney Hollywood Studios, the Disney Florida theme park with the worst attendance records, 75 minutes before the park’s official 9 AM open time for an exclusive chance to enjoy rides and meet park characters.

flying-coasterDisney’s research and development activities address even minute issues which can affect the guest experience at its amusement parks, as is reflected by U.S. Patent No. 9440156, which is titled Flying Roller Coaster with Vertical Load and Launch. This protects a method of operating a roller coaster by positioning a roller coaster train with horizontal loading and unloading platforms on a vertical segment of track running through a station, loading the train with passengers and launching the train onto a gravity-based ride segment of track. This innovation addresses shortcomings in flying roller coasters, a relatively new type of coaster design in which passengers lean forward for most of the ride while their backs face the track, such as discomfort during the loading process.

zone-basedA heavy R&D focus on identifying guests for personalized interactive experiences continues at Disney as readers can see through the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9383730, titled Zone Based Identification for Interactive Experiences. It claims a zone based identification system configured to trigger interactive experiences for guests including sensors generating output signals conveying information related to the presence of objects associated with guests and processors that manage guest profiles and detect the presence of objects within trigger zones for triggering interactive experiences based upon a guest flow pattern. This invention aims to create interactive experiences within zones receiving guest traffic, such as a ride exit or a restaurant waiting area, without blanketing the area with identification sensors and devices, which could compromise a guest’s experience.

Disney continues to make substantial investments into its parks and resorts which indicate that developments at those facilities will continue at a steady clip. The company’s recent earnings show that Disney has invested $3.3 billion across all of its theme parks and resorts, split pretty evenly between domestic and international locations. Disney’s parks and resorts division also includes Adventures by Disney, a guided family vacation subsidiary which recently announced plans to host an adults-only food and wine cruise which will sail on Europe’s Rhine River next October.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

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