Walt Disney Parks and Resorts Chairman Tom Staggs used the high-profile stage of the All Things Digital technology conference to show off the entertainment giant's entry into the world of wearable computing -- the Disney MagicBand.
The wristband, debuting in the coming months at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., will take the place of theme park tickets, hotel room keys and even credit cards for theme park visitors. The wearer can use the Disney MagicBand to enter the park through the turnstiles, nab a Fastpass for Thunder Mountain, buy a set of Mouse ears at a concession stand or enter their hotel room at night.
"It's six or 10 pieces of paper out of your hand," said Staggs. "As importantly, this allows us to unlock more special things for you, depending on what level you want to participate."
Staggs said the MagicBand technology will allow for a more personalized experience in Disney's theme parks -- allowing parents to arrange for a child to meet a favorite character, such as "Toy Story's" Buzz Lightyear, at a pre-arranged time, or sharing a child's name in advance with a Disney Princess so the boy or girl may be greeted by name.
"The more that their visit can seem personalized, the better," Staggs said. "If a little girl goes to meet a Disney princess ... the princess knows this little girl is named Suzie, [the character can say] 'Come here Suzie,' that moment becomes more personal."
The MagicBand will enhance other facets of the theme park visit, Staggs said. At the new Be Our Guest restaurant in Orlando, visitors can go online and place their orders ahead of time, so that when they arrive at the establishment, the technology will alert the chefs to start preparing the order.
"It takes our cast members out of transactional mode with our guests and into an interaction mode," Staggs said. "It's not about, 'May I take your order?' It's about, 'How has your day been?'"
Staggs said this technological advance could also unlock more individualized experiences on familiar theme park rides, such as It's a Small World. He said a child could create a doll online that would be displayed as the young park guest floats through the attraction.
Long term, Staggs said Disney is exploring ways to use the wristband for wearers to interact with other Disney entertainment experiences -- such as the forthcoming Disney Infinity game that features characters from Disney and
"Think about how that band might enable something else in the game," said Staggs, quickly adding. "I'm not making any announcements here."