04 May 2008

What kind of future will we discover

We have all seen Facial Recognition Technology in use on various crime dramas, or read about security forces that have attempted to use the technology to cut crime rates, but what are the practical applications of this tool in a theme park environment?

I suppose the initial question is how does Facial Recognition Technology work? Firstly, the software must distinguish a single face from the rest of the background, whether that background is a building, crowd, or ride vehicle. Next, the unique landmarks that make up a face need to be mapped in relation to one another, each face has approximately eighty of these exclusive features. Some of these recognizable features include the depth of the eye sockets, length of jaw line, and the distance between the eyes. The program then takes this map, or code, of the face and uses it in conjunction with a database to produce a match.

In case you are wondering, Facial Recognition Technology is already in place, in a modified form, in Walt Disney World. Coincidently, we all know that Disney loves to use acronyms, but it is hesitant to use the acronym of Facial Recognition Technology, perhaps they are working on a new term and acronym for public use. This technology has found a home inside of the latest incarnation of Spaceship Earth. During the opening ascent, before we are introduced to our guide, we are asked to face a monitor and wait for a flash. This flash is the photograph the Facial Recognition program will ‘send to the future’ to assist in creating characters for the tailor-made future cartoon at the end of the attraction. This photograph is also linked to the location the guests indicate they are from on the map at the beginning of the attraction, and is displayed on Project Tomorrow’s globe in the appropriate as guest make their way through the post show.

It would be prudent to mention here that, unlike most applications of Facial Recognition Technology, the captured faces are not compared to, or stored in, a database. After they have fulfilled their entertaining function they are discarded to make room for more photographs.

This may not seem like much in the way of news to the common Disney dweeb, but while on my recent trip I learned about a new application for the technology that Disney has been testing. According to a Cast Member* I was speaking with in Epcot, Facial Recognition Technology is being experimented with at Test Track. Due to the complex nature of Test Track’s queue (Fastpass, Stand-by, and Single Rider guests), the ubiquitous red cards on a lanyard have proven ineffective at gauging the wait time for the attraction, and Disney is looking for a more stable solution. The Facial Recognition software is, in theory, programmed to pick out a sequence of eight guests as they enter a specific queue and then formulate the average wait time for those eight guests when they finally board their test car. Unfortunately, due to unknown setbacks, the program has apparently been in testing for the past six months, it is not yet up to the extremely high Disney standards. When this incarnation of the software is up and running we, as guests, can look forward to much more accurate information be presented to us.It is worth noting that while Facial Recognition Technology has been being developed since the 1960s, these applications for the technology are in their infancy. And while their functionality may yield some bumps in productivity, the future of these, and as yet unseen, treatments is bright for theme parks and guests alike.

*Please forgive me for not naming the source. I regrettably did not get the chance to ask their permission to use their name, as they were speaking to a group of guests and had to depart before I could catch them, and I feel it would be irresponsible of me to list them here without permission. As well, all attempts to contact said Cast Member have ended in failure. It pains me to not be able to provide a source, but in this scenario I felt this was very cool information that you would want to know about.

1 comment:

Princess Fee said...

Wow - that is fascinating that they could use the technology in something like the queues for attractions... Thanks for a great, and very interesting, post!