Universal to roll out facial recognition at Orlando theme parks

US patent figure of man at venue entrance showing how biometric facial recognition would work at Universal's theme parks
UNIVERSAL ENTRY: The facial recognition technology scans a visitor’s face on arrival and uses their stored biometric data to validate their identity at theme park entry points

Visitors to four Florida theme parks operated by entertainment giant Universal could soon be able to gain access to individual rides, events and different areas of each park using their face rather than showing their ticket.

Universal is planning to roll out facial recognition technology that would scan a visitor’s face on arrival at the park and use their stored biometric data to validate their identity at entry points at the Epic Universal park, which is due to open in 2025, as well as at its existing attractions — Universal Studio Florida, Islands of Adventure and Volcano Bay — according to local media outlets.

Universal Destinations & Experiences CEO Mark Woodbury revealed plans to introduce facial recognition technology at the Epic Universal park at an industry conference, saying that it will be using “facial recognition/photo validation technology” in order to offer visitors a “frictionless experience”, according to an Orlando Parkstop report.

Woodbury did not specify individual use cases for the solution, but based on facial recognition and photo validation technology patented by Universal with the US Patent and Trademark Office in 2020, the report suggests that “other ways the photo validation system could be utilized include Virtual Line return validation, hotel guest access at the back of the park (by linking your reservation information), event ticket authentication like Halloween Horror Nights, and as mentioned prior, Express Pass validation.”

Universal was granted a patent from the US Patent and Trademark Office in May 2022 for the Efficient Management of Facial Recognition Systems and Methods in Multiple Areas, which “describes how upon arriving to the theme park, the guest would have their face scanned and then connected to their park ticket or other credentials. This would then connect their facial image to their account, so the system will know what type of access they have throughout their visit,” the media report adds.

“According to this patent, the facial image information would be removed from the database upon the guest exiting the park. The patent describes how this would reduce processing power, by only having to match facial images to guests who are actively inside of the theme park.”

Disney began piloting face recognition for entry to the Magic Kingdom theme park in Florida in March 2021.

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