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My Pal Mickey -- Interactive Theme Park Doll

timothy posted more than 11 years ago | from the could-be-used-for-good-too dept.

Privacy 205

Dan Howland writes "Big Ruxpin is Watching You: Once again, The Firesign Theatre's I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus proves itself to be the science-fiction story where the most stuff came true. If you recall, a hacker named Clem traveled through the Future Fair, followed by computer generated Holy-Grams who popped up and said things like, 'Why not try [WALL OF SCIENCE], 'cause it's my favorite!' Leave it to Disney to perfect that spooky technology with My Pal Mickey, an interactive talking plush doll that knows where it is inside Walt Disney World, and tells you trivia as you move through the park. Ah ha, but even better (at least from Disney's standpoint) is that, just like the Holy-Grams, My Pal Mickey feeds the info back into the central computer system, so Doctor Memory can track people's movements through the park in realtime. (Of course, these data will be skewed because they only track people who buy the dolls...) Here is another link, with the interesting, Asimov-like sentence: 'He has a strong sense of self-preservation, and reminds you to put him some place safe when you get near water play areas, or on wet rides.'"

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Nulla sed sapien et wisi condimentum feugiat. Curabitur id augue sed nulla accumsan sollicitudin. Nam ornare justo vitae ante. Donec ligula. Donec felis augue, lacinia ut, vestibulum sit amet, ultricies vestibulum, dolor. Nunc nec nisl. Phasellus blandit tempor augue. Donec arcu orci, adipiscing ac, interdum a, tempus nec, enim. Phasellus placerat iaculis orci. Cras sit amet quam. Sed enim quam, porta quis, aliquet quis, hendrerit ut, sem. Etiam felis tellus, suscipit et, consequat quis, pharetra sit amet, nisl. Aenean arcu massa, lacinia in, dictum eu, pulvinar ac, orci. Mauris at diam tempor ante ullamcorper molestie. Ut dapibus eleifend ipsum. Nam dignissim. onec eget libero. Nullam tincidunt mauris et nibh. Phasellus tempus fermentum diam. Morbi at mauris dapibus lacus malesuada molestie. Morbi vehicula, elit quis posuere mattis, arcu tellus ultrices ante, sit amet rhoncus dolor neque eget lacus. Integer in odio. Ut malesuada mi et nibh. Vestibulum wisi justo, vestibulum a, pretium sit amet, euismod a, augue. Aliquam vitae nisl eu metus dignissim eleifend. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Praesent faucibus tempor tortor. Suspendisse dignissim eleifend dui. Duis adipiscing tellus at nulla. Vivamus mollis, dolor sit amet ornare egestas, risus augue mollis lorem, eget tempus augue augue in libero. Sed tincidunt vestibulum ligula. Vestibulum ut libero eu erat sagittis nonummy. Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis dis parturient montes, nascetur ridiculus mus. Sed ut libero. In hac habitasse platea dictumst. Cras convallis urna sed enim. Nullam tortor ante, consectetuer eget, nonummy eu, congue a, metus. Mauris ante. Nulla sed sapien et wisi condimentum feugiat. Curabitur id augue sed nulla accumsan sollicitudin. Nam ornare justo vitae ante. Donec ligula. Donec felis augue, lacinia ut, vestibulum sit amet, ultricies vestibulum, dolor. Nunc nec nisl. Phasellus blandit tempor augue. Donec arcu orci, adipiscing ac, interdum a, tempus nec, enim. Phasellus placerat iaculis orci. Cras sit amet quam. Sed enim quam, porta quis, aliquet quis, hendrerit ut, sem. Etiam felis tellus, suscipit et, consequat quis, pharetra sit amet, nisl. Aenean arcu massa, lacinia in, dictum eu, pulvinar ac, orci. Mauris at diam tempor ante ullamcorper molestie. Ut dapibus eleifend ipsum. Nam dignissim.

Outside the park (1)

rf0 (159958) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597364)

What if you take it outside the park and then come back another day? Will the system just show you hanging round the gates for a few days :)

Rus

Please Cease and Desist (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597373)

Dear Sir,

We've recently come across the use of our trademark, "Mickey Mouse," on the website site http://www.slashdot.org/. As you may be aware, the rights to Mickey Mouse belong to the Disney corporation, and without proper licensing may not be used by others. As such, please edit your Slashdot story summary to remove any mentions of "Mickey," "Mouse," and/or "Disney." We appreciate your cooperation in this matter.

Michael Lutz
Attorney-At-Law
Dewey, Cheetam and Howe

Re:Please Cease and Desist (4, Funny)

Lord_Slepnir (585350) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597416)

Don't worry, with slashdot spelling the way it is, I'd be surprised if there were more than 6 occurances of "Mickey Mouse" across the whole site. The copyright owners of "Mikey Mouce", however, won't be pleased.

Life Imitates Animation (4, Funny)

zip the pinhead (222107) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597375)

Why do I get the feeling that Disney's been watching re-runs of "The Simpsons" and have decided that the best episode involves "Itchy And Scratchy Land"???

Color me scared,
Zip

Re:Life Imitates Animation (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597533)

I would certainly check the setting of the good/evil switch before I let one in the house.

Sorry but the Simpsons episode comes to mind... (2, Funny)

aerojad (594561) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597578)

Bart: Cool...personalized plates! Barclay... Barry... Bert... Bort? Aw, come on. Bort?

some kid: Mommy, mommy! Buy me a license plate.

kid's mom: No. Come along, Bort.

random guy: Are you talking to me?

kid's mom: No, my son is also named Bort.

...and later on...

We need more "Bort" license plates in the gift shop. I repeat, we are sold out of "Bort" license plates.

Just don't flash cameras in their eyes... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597379)

...we all know the horrors of what went wrong at Itchy and Scratchy Land.

Re:Just don't flash cameras in their eyes... (1)

NotClever (635709) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597424)

No, no, that's how you kill the robots... So bring a lot of flash bulbs... Do they even make flash bulbs anymore?! You know, the kind with 5 on a stick?

Re:Just don't flash cameras in their eyes... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597583)

I thought the flash bulbs were also what set them off in the first place...

If not, then what made them go crazy?

Re:Just don't flash cameras in their eyes... (1)

NotClever (635709) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597669)

Professor Frink ran into the repair room just before they went nuts and blathered something about how after a certain amount of time they would go nuts. Can't remember exactly what he said.

In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597656)

...flash bulbs you!!

And Also In Soviet Russia... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597671)

...cowboy night calls you!!

Real Dolls (3, Funny)

SpineZ (84378) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597380)

They need to team up with Real Dolls [realdoll.com] . I'd go to Disney World for that.

Your plastic pal that's fun to be with? (5, Funny)

worst_name_ever (633374) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597384)

I think I'll pass for now, but give me a call when these come equipped with Genuine People Personalities.

Re:Your plastic pal that's fun to be with? (1)

Guppy06 (410832) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597448)

I never thought of Mickey Mouse as my plastic pal who's fun to be with, and I still don't.

Re:Your plastic pal that's fun to be with? (2, Funny)

acxr is wasted (653126) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597501)

Just what we need, a bunch of lumbering, depressed mice.

Re:Your plastic pal that's fun to be with? (1)

Luigi30 (656867) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597621)

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Your plastic pal? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597661)

That usually refers to a butt-plug here on Linux forums.

Wow, that could get annoying... (3, Redundant)

Squidgee (565373) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597394)

Walk in...

"This is the Epcot Center! It has..blah blah blah..."

Walk away, go check something out back where you came from...

"This is the Epcot Center! It has..blah blah blah..."

Go to head up the stairs, across the room...

"This is the Epcot Center! It has..blah blah blah..."

Go to walk out...

"This is the Epcot Center! It has..blah blah blah..."

*Mickey goes for a ride...*

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597446)

Replace "Epcot Center" with some fantasy name and you just described 99% of computer RPGs.

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (4, Informative)

mistermund (605799) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597536)

The toy won't repeat pertinent location info once he's said it for about an hour or two, but rather will tell a corny joke from a database of geolocational relative jokes. (Aka, jokes about the turn of the century on Main Street, or ones about the country you're in at Epcot) After repeating those, he's got a bank of jokes about various Disney characters.

He'll repeat a statement up to 3 or so times within 15 seconds of being triggered, in case it's noisy and your can't hear him. The toy also has a huge inventory of statements matched to a large number of transmitters (in the hundreds), so there are usually at least three or so for every attraction or pavilion, but some have many more. I've taken the toy to the parks a number of times, and still hear new things every time.

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (1)

Squidgee (565373) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597560)

Of course, it also mentioned bugs, and Mickey being forgetful (on a somewhat-regular basis, it seems).

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597755)

Geez...

That is so unfair. Your Mickey Doll (tm) seems insightful, informative and whitty and mine just tells me to do bad things.

Doll: Wakey, wakey, its early in the morning and you need to burn down the neighbors house while they sleep. Heehee.

(evil satan voice)
Do it now, your master commands you, or I'll have Donald bite off your balls. /me rocks back and forth asking the voices to stop.

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (2, Informative)

bad_fx (493443) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597568)

actually, the second article addresses this. basically there's two things that prevent it:

1) it shakes and giggles when it has something to say, you then squeeze it to hear what it has to say (of course the continual shaking and giggling *could* get annoying)

2) it doesn't react to the same transmitter twice. So i assume it won't keep repeating the same info.

It actually sounds like great idea, excpet for the tracking part, espescially if it's done without any warning to the folk buying them. I'm also sort of curious as to how the tracking works - could it extend outside of the park?

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (1)

Squidgee (565373) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597616)

It uses the IR stations to track you, so they can only track you inside the confines of Disney Land...

And they did mention how it keeps telling jokes whenever it senses a transmitter it's already seen...

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (2, Insightful)

netsharc (195805) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597664)

I am a bit skeptical about the tracking capabilities of the doll. The functions it has only needs input, not output, so it probably only has an IR receiver in its nose, but not a transmitter.

If you do find a transmitter in there, then Disney does have a capability to see where each doll is and track its movement, probably by making it send a UID everytime it receives a signal from a nearby transceiver.

I don't see what's evil about wanting to know what people find interesting or not in your own themepark though, but I agree there's a lot of ways this technology can be abused.

Re:Wow, that could get annoying... (1)

netsharc (195805) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597689)

To reply to myself, the 2 last paragraphs of the "review" [mouseplanet.com] of the doll is probably an indication that the doll does have transmission capabilities!

In Ireland (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597396)

Mickey is a slang term for penis. So, my pal mickey has a whole new meaning over here.

Re:In Ireland (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597425)

So that what it means when my irish cousin said to me "Ive got a sticky micky!"

So how long will it be until (2, Funny)

happyhippy (526970) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597400)

some hax0r figures out how to send his own messages to the dolls?
Little boy: I want to go see Mickey Mouse!
Doll: MICKEY MOUSE IS A FAG!

Re:So how long will it be until (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597528)

Unforunately it won't be possible. All of the voice messages a pre-programmed and simply activated by radio sensors. If you could rent and return the dolls it would be possible, but you have to buy them.

Re:So how long will it be until (1)

gearheadsmp (569823) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597729)

All of the voice messages a pre-programmed and simply activated by radio sensors.

As if being pre-programmed stopped anyone from hacking the Big Mouth Bass [here-n-there.com] .

Re:So how long will it be until (1)

violent.ed (656912) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597766)

Ahh i see it now!

Mickey: Welcome to Epcot! ... All your mouse are belong to us.

Re:So how long will it be until (1)

Nobody really (586200) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597784)

It appears that there might already be an effort underway [google.com] .

The conditioning has begun (1)

bersl2 (689221) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597409)

See, now they're getting little kids used to being tracked. And they're---they're...

Damn, out of tin foil. I guess I'l have to stop.

Thank God it's opt-in... (2, Interesting)

groove10 (266295) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597411)

But just wait until it's not opt-in.

Wait until it is contingent upon entering an establishment (such as a theme park like Disney World) that you must transfix some device to your belt, or carry it at all times.

Then the people have only one recourse... to fight with their wallets and refuse to give business to places where your anonymity is removed. It's only one more step until the gov't forces this system on you.

But maybe people don't care if they're anonymous anymore... maybe they want a talking AI Mickey doll to tell them what to think... I know that I don't want that however.

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (2, Informative)

jaredmauch (633928) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597440)

They can already track you at WDW. There's this fancy contraption called fast-pass. You insert your resort key (which can also be used to charge at most anyplace on WDW property to your resort room), or your park ticket. I'd be more worried about them trying to read the data off your cell phone that can provide your location, or off of your FRS radios you are using to chat with your family/friends at the park.

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (1)

ceejayoz (567949) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597447)

It's a hell of a lot more steps than just one, and slippery slope is a logical fallacy [nizkor.org] .

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597452)

Howard Dean Bad. Howard Dean would withhold federal money to prevent states from making their own laws. Bad Man.

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (2, Informative)

shepd (155729) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597522)

>It's a hell of a lot more steps than just one, and slippery slope is a logical fallacy.

Only when the "fact" attempting to be presented isn't backed up with a reason:

"The Slippery Slope is a fallacy in which a person asserts that some event must inevitably follow from another without any argument for the inevitability of the event in question."

So, for example, they are correct:

'"We have to stop the tuition increase! The next thing you know, they'll be charging $40,000 a semester!"'

Is a logical fallacy.

However, "We have to stop the tuition increase! Remember how medical school only cost $20,000 a term last year and after allowing an increase it was $40,000? The next thing you know, they'll be charging $40,000 a semester for law!"

So, to validate the parent-parent poster's statement, one would say:

"We have to vote with our wallets against this customer tracking! Remember when the police in the UK were allowed to have a few cameras to track criminals? Now they track everyone, everywhere they can! Who's not to say that a corporation will act any different than the police when given the ability to track customers with a low cost device?"

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (5, Insightful)

aborchers (471342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597471)


But maybe people don't care if they're anonymous anymore... maybe they want a talking AI Mickey doll to tell them what to think... I know that I don't want that however.


Lighten up, dude. It's a freaking toy adding another layer of interactivity to a theme park, hardly more sinister than the 100 Years of Magic badges they had last year that would blink when you were near a parade, etc. As for their tracking you, Disney's imagineers are masters of queue control and optimization precisely because they put a tremendous amount of energy into studying how people move through their parks. Absent any evidence that the doll is correlated to an individual, e.g. by ticket or cc# used at purchase, I hardly consider extending those studies with this doll an invasion of privacy.

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (1)

groove10 (266295) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597624)

Are there any laws that would prevent them from linking the information they collect to identifiable info? Do they have a privacy policy somewhere for their customers? I suppose it's all about trust. If you trust "Company A" with your personal information, and trust them not to link that with your actions, then so be it. Every consumer action has some risk of privacy or security breach.

But, simply put, I don't trust very many corporations. There are no watchdogs here, and Disney or any other corporation is out there for one thing and one thing only. Themselves

It just saddens me that there are so many people in this world that don't give a lick about privacy or security as long as they have some "added" feature (which they end up paying for). Sorry bub, but that's not for me, and that's why I'm not going to go to Disney World anytime soon. If I ever did go, you better bet I'll be wearing my tin-foil hat... and gloves so they don't my DNA from my fingerprints fromaround Mickey's throat. :)

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (1)

aborchers (471342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597691)

It just saddens me that there are so many people in this world that don't give a lick about privacy or security as long as they have some "added" feature (which they end up paying for).


I hope you aren't lumping me in that category, because I am extremely concerned about the potential for abuse in this area. I just don't see monitoring traffic patterns on private property in order to enhance the park for its visitors worthy of derision when there are so many legitimate targets.


Sorry bub, but that's not for me, and that's why I'm not going to go to Disney World anytime soon. If I ever did go, you better bet I'll be wearing my tin-foil hat... and gloves so they don't my DNA from my fingerprints fromaround Mickey's throat. :)


That's certainly your perogative. IMHO, WDW is one of the most technologically amazing pieces of entertainment on the planet, and I have no intention to give up my passes. One of the things I enjoy the most about it is the lack of tinfoil-hat-wearing paranoiacs blathering on every corner. ;-)

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (1, Insightful)

Eric Destiny (255168) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597652)

You are one sad, paranoid, hateful motherfucker aren't you?

You don't think your kids would love to have Mickey talking to them as they walk through Disney World? Unclench and enjoy something for once.

Re:Thank God it's opt-in... (1)

aborchers (471342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597722)

I'm with you. WDW can't be beat for full-on mind-bending techno-overload fun. My daughter's getting one of these the next time we step through the gate.

OTOH, this being a Disney-related forum, you might have done better to open with:

"You are a sad, strange little man. You have my pity." :-)

Holly is my favorite computer TV character (0, Offtopic)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597420)

followed by computer generated Holy-Grams who popped up and said things like, 'Why not try [WALL OF SCIENCE], 'cause it's my favorite!'

Sorry for the OT, but Holly(of Red Dwarf) is by far the "most awesomest"(in his/her own words) ship's computer. That stuck up bitch of a computer on Enterprise never said to Picard, "Look, I'm a tenth-generation AI hologrammic computer. I'm not your mum."

Then again, it also never dropped to an IQ of 30 accidentally, never had a sex change operation(or two), never developed multiple-personality-disorder(its other personality tried to kill it) etc :-)

self-preservation (1)

holt_rpi (454352) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597432)

Mickey often has a comment after a ride. For example, he asks you to make sure he didn't lose an ear to Emperor Zurg's laser after you ride Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin.
I wonder... if you take Mickey with you on a roller coaster that he's not tall enough to ride, will he remind you to check himself at the door?

And more philosophically, if he goes on such a ride and falls out (into theme park no-mans land, where "no items are retrieved until the end of the day") will he ask you to make sure he's still there... even if he isn't there to ask?

Woah.

Re:self-preservation (3, Funny)

aborchers (471342) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597478)

And more philosophically, if he goes on such a ride and falls out (into theme park no-mans land, where "no items are retrieved until the end of the day") will he ask you to make sure he's still there... even if he isn't there to ask?


No, but he screams in terror as he plummets to the ground...

Re:self-preservation (4, Interesting)

mistermund (605799) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597563)

I wonder... if you take Mickey with you on a roller coaster that he's not tall enough to ride, will he remind you to check himself at the door?

Actually, you're on track. Since he's targeted towards kids, at the "thrill" rides, he'll remind you of height requirements, and usually say something about being nervous about going, or maybe being afraid - in a kid friendly way. Works well to placate kids who aren't tall enough to ride.

The belt clip that attaches the toy to your waist is at the height of many ride restraints, so sometimes it's best to stash the toy in a backpack to prevent losing him. Though it has been reported that the toy reports back to the park database to tell where he's going, no personally identifiable info is taken at purchase, so there's no way to match him to an owner if he's lost.

moron's pal robbIE, inactive scheme shark troll (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597453)

that's it. how many fauxking billyonerrors do we need anyway?

0, that's back to the math for 'adults'.

consult with/trust in yOUR creator. vote with yOUR wallet. that's the spirit.

liars&touts&shills, 0 my.

I wonder... (3, Interesting)

ai2097 (693562) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597460)

Do the people buying these things know that they are being trakced? Is there a disclaimer or fine print or anything? Do the dolls have unique IDs? Could they be linked to a credit card number to allow the tracking of specific people? Could these people be 'followed' to thier rooms and have thier identities discovered that way if they paid in cash?
</paranoia>
A slightly more amusing question: Are the dolls getting thier voice data from the checkpoints, or are the blurbs preprogrammed? I think it would be funny to set up a checkpoint on a busy road that triggered Micky to start swearing at the hapless tourists he's travelling with ;)

Re:I wonder... (1)

peripatetic_bum (211859) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597505)

Of course they know they are being tracked. Hell I am surprised that Disney doesnt make sell this as a Value Added Feature. Not only will they get a momento of where/what/when they did something, but
perhaps the rides people will be going on, can do something for the special beaer of the doll, like say "WElcome to Space mountain!"

Hell, I this may be evil, but then anyone who buys this doll and spends that day there is in the land of evil to begin with.

Re:I wonder... (1)

Crusader of Yore (630674) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597530)

>> I think it would be funny to set up a checkpoint on a >> busy road that triggered Micky to start swearing at the >> hapless tourists he's travelling with. Eh, but all they have to do is slap on some BS 'encryption' scheme, and then DMCA your ass halfway to hell and back if you circumvent it to send unauthorized messages...

Oh come on... (4, Insightful)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597617)

You are in the middle of Walt Disney World, probably the most monitored and carefully controlled environment on the planet, and you are worried about a doll giving away your last location near a beacon???

I would say if you are the least concerned about Disney tracking you when on-property, you should instead stick to your cabin in the Black Hills.

What about outside the park? (1)

ThatWeasel (113982) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597462)

It would be interesting if they just used GPS for it's location device. Then they could track the people who buy the doll all the way home... ... okay that could get scary quick.

How to mess up the statistics (1)

ebcdic (39948) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597472)

As with smart cards, just swap them with someone else every now and then.

Or if you really like certain features... (1)

Politas (1535) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597750)

Buy several dolls, stuff them in a backpack and keep going to your favourite features. If the number of people turning up to a particular feature is less than the number of people riding on/using it, then they'll try to improve the queue times or whatever.

Of course, if they only communicate via the IR in their noses, you'd have to put "breathing" holes in the backpack to poke their noses out of. It'd look pretty cool, I think.

Physical World lagging behind the internet (2, Insightful)

bjorky (78181) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597475)

So this is effectively the physical conterpart to a tracking cookie?

Re:Physical World lagging behind the internet (1)

PReDiToR (687141) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597539)

[Off Topic] "Defenestration" is to throw out of a window; what's a word for throwing 'Windows' out of something? "OpenSourcing" [/Off Topic]

It's loading slow, so here is the article text (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597477)

Never mind Big Brother watching you. What about "My Pal Mickey?"
Sure, it's the hot new toy for WDW guests to buy. But what else is "My Pal Mickey" doing for the Mouse (besides fattening Disney's wallet, of course)? Maybe monitoring theme park guests movements? Strange but true, folks. Read and heed.

Okay. By now, JimHillMedia.com readers are no doubt aware of "My Pal Mickey." (After all, this site actually broke the story on this hi-tech wonder back in December 2002.) That 10-and-a-half inch tall plush that -- thanks to its on-board sensors -- can tell WDW guests all sorts of interesting things about the Florida theme parks. Trivia about various attractions it encounters and/or start times for parades and shows. "My Pal Mickey" can even entertain WDW visitors while they wait in line at rides by telling jokes and/or playing games with the guests.

Of course, what allows "My Pal Mickey" to do all of these amazing things is that this hi-tech toy makes use of some pretty sophisticated technology that then keys off of the literally hundreds of sensors that are scattered around Disney World's theme parks. Which allows the doll to know exactly where it is at all times in the parks. Which allows "My Pal Mickey" to know exactly what it's supposed to say in any given situation.

Of course, the flip side of this situation is that the sensors that Walt Disney Imagineering has strategically placed around the Florida theme parks can be used to track "My Pal Mickey" and -- by extension -- the guests who are carrying the plush. The end result is: the Walt Disney Company has been scoring all of this exciting new info about how its guests actually move around its WDW theme parks.

"This is a true break through for us," said one un-named source in Disney's Operations, Strategy and Technology office. (This gentleman only agreed to speak to JimHillMedia.com about this particular aspect of the "My Pal Mickey" dolls if we agreed to disguise his identity.) "We're finally getting real-time data about how guests move through our parks. What holds their interest. What doesn't. If we can actually harvest this information. Figure out what it means in terms of guest flow, show planning, etc., this will give Disney a huge advantage in the theme park arena."

According to our source, Disney began collecting data from the "My Pal Mickeys" as soon as the dolls first started hitting the parks back in April. Watching, for example, how quickly guests who were carrying the plushes moved through the Magic Kingdom. What attractions they walked right by. Where they lingered and loitered.

"We've already begun to see some interesting patterns emerge," he continued. "Guests carrying 'My Pal Mickey' typically head for Mickey's Toontown Fair once they enter the Magic Kingdom. As if they're eager to show off their new hi-tech toy to the real Mickey Mouse."

"From there, these guests then tend to double back into Fantasyland, where they ride a few rides before heading over to Tomorrowland. Once there, these WDW visitors tend to hit most of the rides and shows open there before heading out the Hub to catch a show in front of the Castle or the afternoon parade. Only after this is done do they head over to the western side of Magic Kingdom to check Liberty Square, Frontierland and finally Adventureland."

WDI is reportedly already pouring over the info that has been harvested from the "My Pal Mickeys" that WDW guests have been carrying about. I've heard that a few Imagineers are planning on using this info to justify adding a brand new E Ticket (something along the lines of the now-abandoned "Fire Mountain" project) to Adventureland. With the hope that building a new thrill ride on that side of the Magic Kingdom will help to start balancing out guest traffic flow patterns at that particular Disney World theme park. Also of concern is the possibility that rogue slashdot editor "Homeos" is using the data in his quest to pick up young, nubile children to assist with Rob "taco snotting" Malda's perpetual impotence.

Of course, given that the "My Pal Mickeys" have only been in operation at the WDW theme parks for less than two months, there are (of course) others within Disney's Advanced Technology efforts who are already advising caution. Who are telling the folks at WDI not to jump the gun here. That -- as intriguing and exciting as the info gleaned from this new data stream might be -- that it's extremely premature to use this information in an attempt to rethink the Disney theme parks, to decide which attractions should be built where.

"To put it bluntly," said Sue Doughnim (another WDW veteran who only agreed to be interviewed for this article if JimHillMedia.com agreed to protect her identity), "we don't know yet if the people who are buying the 'My Pal Mickeys' are truly typical theme park guests. Given the plush's $50 price point, this toy is obviously not an impulse item. At least not yet. So a lot of us in Operations tend to think that it's the hardcore Disneyana fans who are buying up the dolls right now. Or parents with deep pockets."

This is why Sue and her colleagues are advising WDI to proceed with extreme caution. To just collect the "My Pal Mickey" data for now. To see how spring traffic patterns at the theme parks compare to those in the summer, fall and winter. To pull together a full year's worth of tracking information before making any decisions about what to add and/or what to take out of the parks.

Still, given how thrilled WDW executives have been with the public's overwhelmingly positive reaction to "My Pal Mickey" (I.E. None of the market survey work that was done prior to placing the plushes in the theme parks suggested that Disney would be selling more "My Pal Mickeys" than they'd be renting. Given the doll's $50 price tag, Mouse House officials always assumed that they'd be renting a lot more Mickeys than they'd be selling. But -- as of last week -- the opposite has proven to the case), Disney World's Operations staff is going to be hard pressed to rein in these execs' enthusiasm. To not have Mouse House officials snatch up the preliminary data that's been compiled to date and run with it.

"Our chief concern is -- now that we have all of these real-time data about how guests actually move around Disney World's theme parks -- that it may skew WDI's plans for the two Chinese theme parks that the Walt Disney Company has in the works."

So -- given that Mickey's Toontown Fair is the first stop for WDW guests who are carrying "My Pal Mickeys" as they tour Disney World's Magic Kingdom -- does this mean that Hong Kong Disneyland as well as the yet-un-named second Chinese theme park will end up with beefed up Toontowns, perhaps more prominently positioned than in any previous Disney parks? As of this moment, it's honestly hard to say.

What is clear is that "My Pal Mickey" has proven to be a real boon to the Walt Disney Company. Both for the money that this 10-and-a-half inch Mouse has poured into the corporation's coffers as well as the info that these dolls have dumped into Disney's data banks. (Which might explain why Disneyland Resort officials are so eager to get the "My Pal Mickey" project up and running in Anaheim. With a particular eye toward what this hi-tech toy can tell them about how guests really move through Disney's California Adventure and what can be done to improve that still troubled theme park.

So please keep this mind the next time you're toting that "My Pal Mickey" doll around the theme parks. Yes, it's admittedly fun to have this hi-tech toy telling you all sorts of trivia about the various attractions. But this piece of pricey plush is also making it possible for Walt Disney Company officials to keep an all-too-accurate track of your movements through their theme parks.

So where you go and what you do while carrying that doll may determine -- in the not-so-distant future -- what sorts of new rides, shows, shops and restaurants end up being built in the parks.

So please keep that in mind as you carry "My Pal Mickey" (or the "My Pal Pooh" which is expected to hit the theme parks in 2004 ... provided of course, that the Slesinger lawsuit is resolved in a favorable way for the Mouse House). Though you may have a miniature Mickey dangling off of that clip on your belt, always keep in mind that it's really the Big Mouse that's watching you.

Our Duty Is Clear! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597480)

We need to replicate the transceivers in these things and figure out how to manufacture them dirt-cheap. Every time anybody goes to Disney World, they should drop a few into the garbage cans. Soon Disney will be focusing their creative energy on figuring out how to make the garbage cans more entertaining and how to get people to spend more money while sitting inside them. Muahaha.

Yeah, the tech job market is a little slow right now.

Actually they've already figured that out (1)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597631)

They already have (a few) talking garbage cans there! Perhaps they and Pal Mickey could have a chat.

Movement tracking and Nanotech (2, Interesting)

meckardt (113120) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597481)

...feeds the info back into the central computer system, so Doctor Memory can track people's movements through the park in realtime.

I know this isn't precisely on topic, but with the coming of nanotechdevices, how long will it be before a park like Disney can stamp the hand of every person entering the park with an ink containing nanotransmitters, so that EVERYONE's movement is tracked?

Re:Movement tracking and Nanotech (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597586)

Don't run out of tinfoil; they'll read your mind!

Yes, THEM!

Mickey knows where you live! (1)

Feztaa (633745) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597485)

He has a strong sense of self-preservation

Does that mean it will kill everybody that tries to destroy it?

Obligatory Simsons Quote (3, Funny)

bjorky (78181) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597490)

Frink: You've got to listen to me. Elementary chaos theory tells us that all robots will eventually turn against their masters and run amok in an orgy of blood and kicking and the biting with the metal teeth and the hurting and shoving.

Seriously, don't these give you the willies?

Who the fuck cares if they're tracking you? (5, Insightful)

SuperRob (31516) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597496)

Seriously, does it really matter if they're tracking you, and if they end up using that information to change or plan new theme parks? Quite frankly, isn't that exactly what we should want? We're the guests, and anything they do to make the parks better for me is great. Carrying around a MPM seems to be the perfect way to tell Disney what interests me at the park without having to actually TELL them.

Re:Who the fuck cares if they're tracking you? (0)

Eric Destiny (255168) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597642)

You're new to Slashdot aren't you? This is just another paranoia du joir.

The Disney World Experience (4, Insightful)

Landaras (159892) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597497)

Initial Disclaimer: I hate Disney as a company as much as anyone here thanks to their political and legal activities.

Less than a month ago, I spent a week in Disney World with my disabled mother. (Don't knock the situation: I got to stay in the Grand Floridian, eat lobster for every meal, go parasailing, etc. for FREE)

The one thing that really struck me about the park / resort is that they sell an experience. Every last employee (they call themselves "cast members") from the ticket taker to Security to register operators is SINCERELY dedicated to serving you and ensuring that you are having the time of your life.

Since we were staying at the Grand Floridian, we didn't go past the front gate (and back into Orlando) the entire time. It was culture shock once we returned to The Real World, just because of the level of apathy in customer service shown to us at the airport, restaraunts, etc..

I was honestly saddened that it is not possible for me to spend my own money on a future time at Disney World without being morally inconsistent. The Disney World experience that they sell is incredible, and although I did notice these dolls in the stores, I didn't realize the full potential of them. I'm not surprised though, as you can tell how the "personalized" attention it would give a youngster would be near-magical.

On an aside, I'm an outspoken Evangelical Christian, and whenever I talk to people about the trip and my hatred of Disney as a corporation, their reaction is always "Is it because of Disney's embracing of homosexuality?"

My respone is that I could care less about that, and inform them of copyright extension, bought legislation, etc.

My point here is that I've seen passion on these boards that can rival and often surpass those of many Evangelicals I know. Why are we not mobilizing to inform the public at large and/or get things changed? Even if we're scoffed at as idiots (as many on Slashdot would at a Christian boycotting Disney for the above reason) at least the public WOULD BE AWARE of the issue.

I contacted the EFF as soon as I got back to find out about volunteering a consistent 5-10 hours a week, but was told that since I'm in Ohio they don't have the resources to administer remote volunteers.

- Neil Wehneman

Re:The Disney World Experience (2, Informative)

base3 (539820) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597552)

At the park, yes, and in the more expensive hotels. But in the "low rent" district, like Allstar Sports on a business trip, I asked to have my sheets changed, and was lied to about it having been done (penciled them before I called). For $150/night for an EconoLodge-like motel, I don't think fresh sheets each day is too much to ask

Re:The Disney World Experience (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597574)

> copyright extension, bought legislation, et

who fucking cares!

Got One - Neat Toy (5, Informative)

mistermund (605799) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597502)

Pal Mickey is a great idea, and works quite well. I live in Orlando and visit the parks quite regularly with one. As you walk in the parks, he'll chime up with useful info and timely information regarding your visit - like "I hear the wait's pretty short over at the Tower of Terror". He also mentions height limits and factoids about the rides as you pass. When you walk past a beacon that you've already passed within a certain period of time, he'll tell a corny joke that's pertinent to the area your in. (Jokes about pirates in Adventureland, astronauts in Tomorrowland, etc) One of my favorite quotes I heard him say was walking into Fantasyland - "Welcome to Fantasyland, where all your dreams come true. That is, unless, your dream is to be in Frontierland." Outside the parks, Mickey has a few games that you can play, but doesn't say anything about where you've been, which seems like earlier rumored memory features were left out.

Mickey seems to have been originally intended for kids, but a larger percentage seem to have been purchased for adults. He's powered by AA's and a PIC microporcessor, and has a Vishay TSOP1138 IR receiver in his nose. Disney has deployed hundreds of IR transmitters all over the parks at Walt Disney World which activate the toy, many of which serve double service to trigger "Magical Moments Pins" as well as iPaqs that serve as park guides for foreign and disabled guests.

As far as I have been able to tell, all the doll's sayings are already onboard, plus a number of sentence fragments like numbers and showtimes that allow him to assemble sayings. ("You may want to be back here at 8:00 to get a spot for the fireworks") The only way to get the toy to say something not intended is to somehow capture and retransmit the IR data, or to create your own circuit that reponds to the transmitters. A group has been created to figure out the system at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/re_palmickey [yahoo.com]

Rumor has it that a Spanish language version is set to come out soon, as well as one that may serve as an electronic FastPass or as a digital camera.

Re:Got One - Neat Toy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597577)

"I hear the wait's pretty short over at the Tower of Terror"

I wonder if this was a global broadcast of if Walt is already intelligently routing traffic in the park. I also wonder of the Disney definition of "short wait" is as bad as I remember as a kid.

Re:Got One - Neat Toy (2, Informative)

CharlieG (34950) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597605)

Depends on when you were a kid. The first time I was in WDW was in 1975, and you could get caught on multi HOUR lines (Back in the days of the E ticket)

I went last September. Only twice did I get caught on a line longer than about 15-20 minutes, and both where on small, no big deal rides, where if I had know the line was as long as it was, I would not have bothered. The trick is they now have a thing called "fast pass" You can "check in" to a ride, and you are given a time to come back. The total wait time is supposed to be the same if you FP or not. They keep the actual FP line down to a few minutes. The trick is, you can only FP the major rides, and only one at a time

Disclaimer - I work for a company owned by Disney, BUT my opinion here is totally my own. The REALLY can make a 6 YO girl one happy kid

Jeeze (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597506)

Anyone else need to read that story submission like 3 times before it made any sense?

Obligatory... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597520)

you mean you actually read it...? You must be new here...

you're supposed to spout uninformed bollocks as quickly as possible in attempt to sound interesting or insightful... it usually works best if you can:
* quote the simpsons,
* bash microsoft (extra points if you can work SCO into it somehow)
* or mention how this is infringing on your rights at the same time.

don't worry, you'll learn.

Some more info... (5, Informative)

TechnoPops (590791) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597510)

Here's a another informative page [miceage.com] on My Pal Mickey, discussing a little bit on the tech, and possible future upgrades for the doll (i.e., a built-in digicam, acting as an electronic "FastPass").

A friend of mine who works over in DW told me about this a couple months ago. Seems like it's a steal for $50, if not just for the amount of tech in it. And with the right amount of hackability, I would have a ball with this at home:

Pal Mickey: Hey, Tony! You've just entered the kitchen. How about a beer?

Me: Well, I was kind of thirsty... Thanks, Pal Mickey!

"Intellectual property" protector? (0)

Thinkit3 (671998) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597511)

Singing "it's a small world" outside the ride will cost you $0.99 per minute.

Making Mickey Useful (2, Interesting)

Nom du Keyboard (633989) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597531)

For Mickey to really be useful, start by telling me which attractions have the shortest lines at the moment.

The marketing data is likely distorted by this because after you've spent $50 for Mickey you're probably eating fast food for the rest of the day, rather than splurging in one of the nicer restaurants. (IMHO, half the fun of WDW is eating in the many fascinating restaurants there.)

Having Mickey recite the specials of the day for each restaurant passed would certainly be fun.

What I NEVER want to hear my Mickey tell me: And right here is the very spot Michael Eisner was standing on when he realized the need to throw Disney's resources behind lobbying for what became the Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act.

Re:Making Mickey Useful (1)

SuperRob (31516) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597548)

"For Mickey to really be useful, start by telling me which attractions have the shortest lines at the moment. "

You didn't read the second link, did you? Pal Mickey DOES tell you which attractions have the short wait times.

Will Woz's technology wind up in themeparks? (2, Insightful)

silentmusic (146378) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597540)

Remember just a few weeks ago when Woz's lasest press release was a Slashdot story? Here's a brief summary (nah I don't work there):

"The wOz Platform(TM) system includes an innovative wireless network, a system reference design, and an online service that serve as the foundation for a range of location, status, control, and communications solutions for consumers and businesses. The heart of the wOz Platform is the wOzNet(TM) network, a unique local wireless network that provides long range and long battery life at a low cost."

Anyways when we tried to figure out how this could be used one of the few obvious places was to track people in themeparks. I couldn't really figure out why Woz didn't put a GPS unit in every tracker, but I guess that they figured out a way to make it cheaper but only having a certain number of unit with GPS (maybe think of those as pseudo satellites) and then other units that are able to find their location based on the GPS units.

My basic question was how to you guarantee a suitable number of GPS equipped units in close proximity, and a theme park not only answers that question, but it helps to explain what exactly you would want to track. Kids are always getting separated from parents in theme parks.

This is just like (0)

chunkwhite86 (593696) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597543)

that South Park episode.

SHOE!

"Ooh you American all have great big penis!"

Yeah. That episode.

I'll buy one when my pal... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597551)

...can inject me with a disassociative before dumping me into an endless maze of twists and turns like some cow being very very very slowly lead to bovine university

In similar news . . . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597558)

ThinkGeek has released "Bambi," the anatomically correct, interactive love doll. Sure to be a hit with the /. crowd.

~~~

Anatomically correct? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597567)

Does this doll have a prehensile anus? I'd like to do to Disney what Eisner has done to the American public.

So if someone puts one in your bag. . . (4, Funny)

Limburgher (523006) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597582)

. . .and you start hearing voices, have they. . .

Slipped you a Mickey?

ha ha HA! Hi boys and girls!

Poor prioritization (4, Funny)

isomeme (177414) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597597)

'He has a strong sense of self-preservation, and reminds you to put him some place safe when you get near water play areas, or on wet rides.'
You know, I'd prefer we implemented the Three Laws in order, starting at One.

Re:Poor prioritization (1)

CableModemSniper (556285) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597619)

Heh. Where are the modpoints?

Delos (1)

jacquesm (154384) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597606)

If you ever have the time to hunt it up try 'Delos', an older science fiction movie starring Yul Brenner. It's really a great flic with lots of suspense and some excellent footage.

It pretty much covers the 'Interactive Theme Park Doll' from every angle that you could think of (including the dolls running amok).

WestWorld, FutureWorld (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597701)

Delos was the name of the themepark but WestWorld and FutureWorld were the names of the movies as I recall. WestWorld was the one with Yul Brenner.

The idea was that the theme park was populated with animatronic actors that you could really shoot dead, or whatever. There was an enormous control room mediating the fantasy. The robots were so real it was hinted as strongly as you could back then that you could have sex with them and it was totally realistic.

Of course when the 'bots run amok they aren't cute any more...

FutureWorld was set after the debacle at WestWorld; Delos still had the WestWorld set and had added two others. (I forget what the third was.) Anyway it was derivative and not as engaging as the original, since you already knew the joke.

Does Delos... (1)

scootr1 (159749) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597706)

equal Westworld [imdb.com] ?

Westworld, Jacques. Westworld. (1)

MsGeek (162936) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597739)

The movie is called Westworld [imdb.com] . And it's gonna be remade [cinecon.com] .

You mean Westworld? (1)

poptones (653660) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597745)

Yul Brenner, cowboy, theme park...

Don't forget to check out Futureworld with the life size funtime barbies!

well... (1)

diesel66 (254283) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597626)

I, for one, welcome our new interactive talking plush doll overlords!

Boy, I never get tired of this one.

I choose RealDoll any day! (0)

Fu Ling-Yu (688545) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597628)

Good for you Mickey lovers, but I prefer a RealDoll [realdoll.com] any day my friends. You cannot have sex with mouse..

artical is SHIT (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597644)

next plz...
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NIGGERS

TROLLS 0wN tH1S 51t3!!!

TRoLL

Theme Park Doll (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#6597670)

I'm surprised it not some fucking wacked out perverted anime goat sex

How long before... (2, Funny)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597678)

Some nerd round here tries to port Linux to it?

where is Barney? (1)

linuxislandsucks (461335) | more than 11 years ago | (#6597723)

where is Barney? ...buried right under pugnet Sound?
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