The Walt Disney Company (NYSE:DIS) has invested $1 billion into a wearable technology experiment that it hopes will revolutionize how people spend money at theme parks.
The program is called MyMagic+ and uses a combination of a website, smartphone app and bracelets called MagicBands to track a guest’s every movement at Disney World resorts. Guests can now book trips and even plan out their rides months in advance. The MagicBands store tickets, hotel keys, debit and credit card information and can be used anywhere just by tapping a sensor.
The MagicBands also use radio frequency identification to let Disney track guests as they move around the park. It’s this feature that could ultimately determine if the MyMagic+ experiment is a success or failure.
On the one hand, the MagicBands allow Disney to serve guests at restaurants, manage lines and direct employees. They can send custom notifications about restaurant changes or wait times for rides. Disney employees can address children by name or wish them a happy birthday. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, MyMagic+ helped Disney accomdate an additional 3,000 guests during the holiday season.
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On the other hand, the MagicBands run the risk of alienating guests by creeping them out. Some people have likened the MyMagic+ program to spying. Others have complained that new limitations on reserving space for a ride have led to longer lines than ever.
Still, Disney is moving ahead full-speed with MyMagic+, and it’s probably just a matter of time before other theme parks follow.