Geeking Out with the Disney Dream, Part 4: Disney Biometrics

Experiments GeekMom Technology Travel
I took many cute pictures of my sons playing at the beach at Castaway Cay, Disney's private resort island. Disney shipboard professional photographers wandered the island taking pictures also. Because we were in the water, I didn't have a Key to the World card with which the photographer could associate the picture. "That's okay", he says. How can that be? Photo: Patricia Vollmer

With this next part, some of you Geek Moms might say, “Wow that’s really cool!” and some of you might say, “Wow, that’s really creepy!”

It’s no secret that cruise lines offer comprehensive portraiture services on board.  And it’s also no secret that on a cruise your party will be pulled aside all over the place to grab pictures for your purchase later. There’s an area on all the Disney Cruise Line ships called “Shutters” where hard-copy portfolios of all of your pictures are available as soon as 2 hours after they’re taken.  Photography is prohibited in Shutters, so I couldn’t share how cool this place is: touch your Key to the World card to one of the touchpads and a screen will tell you where your stateroom account’s folio is.

In our case, we were assigned “Donald Yellow 5”. Which meant the Donald bookcase, the folio marked #5 in the row of yellow folders.  The area looks like an elegant library. This video shows the bookcases starting at about 0:30.

We weren’t shy about the photo opportunities. I think my husband was getting rather sick of it, but I like that there is no obligation to purchase. And you never know when you might have a winner in there. (Especially when I’m usually the one BEHIND the camera and it was nice to be in front of it every once in a while.) We had over 50 prints in our folio by the end of our four-night cruise; only about 10 of them were worth keeping.  My oldest son blinks a lot, and my husband’s glasses had a lot of glares.

I'm always a sucker for good pictures of my family. Note the picture of my youngest son in the bottom right corner. Photo: Patricia Vollmer

So we’re enjoying the beach on Castaway Cay. We had rented inner tubes for the boys to float around in. At one point a photographer was wading around along the water/sand line, photographing guests. It was nice in that he didn’t photograph children without the parents’ permission, and my son posed like a champ.

But I didn’t have my Key to the World card with which I could associate the picture. “That’s okay,” said the nice young photographer. And he snapped a few pictures and moved on to the next family. Really?

Lo and behold, that evening when we checked our folio our two water pictures were in the folio!!!

How could that be? Easy. Disney biometrics.

Bio…what? Bio as in life, metrics as in mathematics. In this case, Disney employs facial recognition technology to compare pictures of “unknown” guests to other photos that have already been taken during the cruise. So if you had a picture taken already during the cruise, and it was already associated with a stateroom account via a Key to the World card, the software can find the unassociated picture’s home: your folio.

For those who didn’t have any pictures and didn’t have anything to associate, a wall on one side of Shutters displayed all the “unknown” faces.

You’ve seen this before. Facebook has “Tag Recommendations“, iPhoto has the “Faces” feature, and Picasa Web Albums has the “People” feature.

I had talked about this Castaway Cay photo association with some fellow cruise guests and they pointed out that it seemed rather creepy to them. We all hoped that none of the biometric information is saved once the cruise is over.

What do you think? Biometric face recognition: cool or creepy?

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5 thoughts on “Geeking Out with the Disney Dream, Part 4: Disney Biometrics

  1. Wow. I have to say I think that is an awesome idea. I’ve been on two cruises before and hated going to the photo gallery to search for the pictures that were taken. That seems like a much more streamlined way to handle the whole process. Even the facial recognition is amazing to me. Yes, it is a little creepy in the fact that technology is getting that advanced, but I’m still in awe of it.

    On another note, I would like to thank you for your articles on the Disney Cruise. I’ve been a Carnival fan for several years now, but I think my family’s next cruise might be switched to Disney. And it’s not just because I’m about to have a kid. I’ve always loved Disney and it seems like the experience of a lifetime. Thank you for your honest opinions of it.

    1. Thank you for your feedback Russell! One of the things I absolutely loved about our Disney cruise experience was how the children can be the priority wherever you want them to be. And if you choose to travel without children, there’s a lot of fun just the same.

      At formal dining, the children’s orders are taken first, and they are about 1/2 a course ahead of the adults. I never gave it much thought before, I think a fed-child is better behaved at the end of a meal than a hungry child at the beginning.

      For off shore excursions, Disney makes it abundantly clear which excursions are appropriate for children.

      Even the giant Aquaduck! water slide attraction accommodates VERY small children (3 years old, maybe?) so long as he/she is accompanied by an adult on the raft.

      I’m so glad you’re enjoying these posts, I’ve a couple more still in the hopper, and I’m debating coming clean about our non-insignificant “after cruise” bill. A lot of expenses that you need to be prepared for (i.e. gratuities, parking at the cruise terminal, all those photographs we bought….)

      1. Oh yes, I do remember those well and would love to hear more about them. Like I said, my cruise experience has been limited to Carnival and has been very pleasant, but with my little one on the way and a 4 year old nephew, my family has been looking into more family fun attractions.

        But thank you anyway. Everyday I’m still eagerly opening up my google homepage and hoping to see a new blog about the Dream.

  2. I find facial recognition matching for photos way less invasive and creepy than the fact that they fingerprint everyone who enters a Disney park.

    1. I assume the fingerprinting at the park is to keep someone from transferring a multi-day ticket to someone else? I was recently fingerprinted at Universal Studios for a single day ticket and couldn’t understand why….

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