Opinions are split as to whether Walt Disney World’s MagicBand system is the resort's crowing success or an epic failure. Though Disney has said that MyMagic+ has been responsible for increased revenue since its implementation at Walt Disney World, many view the bands that go along with this technology as superfluous and unnecessary in a world where everyone has a smartphone with RFID technology (although, it has to be said, many guests adore MagicBands).
Disney has confirmed that when MyMagic+ finally makes it to Disneyland Resort, supposedly sometime this year, MagicBands will not be a part of the West Coast system, which seems to lend credence to the theory that physical MagicBands simply don't have a place outside Walt Disney World.
However, even though Disney's future with physical MagicBands seems tenuous at best (at least outside Central Florida) it looks like a system very close to what is in use currently at Walt Disney World is actually in testing at a park that actually was one of the first to use RFID wristband technology almost a decade ago...
Wet ‘n Wild’s virtual queue system is testing now
By now you have probably heard the news that after more than forty years, Wet ‘n Wild Orlando, the world’s first modern water park, will be closing down forever at the end of the year. (we recently posted an in-depth look at the park's history and demise). However, if you have been to this park in recent weeks, you might notice something a little bit odd for a park with only a few months to go before closing its doors forever: testing of new virtual queue technology!
Guests who visit Wet 'n Wild during one of the park's testing periods (which are not announced in advance) are now being given a special RFID wristband that each guest can scan at the entrance of select attractions to wait in a "virtual queue". Each attraction will display a “current wait time” on an overhead monitor, and guests will be able to see a return time after they scan their wristband that will correspond to the current wait time. So, for instance, if a guest heads over to Aqua Drag Racer at 12:30PM and there is a 40 minute wait time, they will be able to scan their band and then will see a 1:10PM return time displayed on the monitor.
During this wait in the virtual queue, guests are free to explore other areas of the park, grab a drink, take a dip in the wave pool, or experience any of the other attractions that do not have a virtual queue. Then, when it is time to return, guests simply scan their wristbands again at the entrance of the attraction to gain immediate entry. For a look at the kiosks used during this test, as well as the signage guests can find around the park on testing days, Orlando Park Pass has a very helpful walkthrough (with pictures!) of this new, in-development system being used at Wet 'n Wild.
Though the process likely sounds very similar to the FastPass+ system at nearby Walt Disney World, this virtual queue system seems to have more in common with legacy FastPass, as guests are not able to pre-select attractions in advance, need to physically go to the attraction to receive a return time, and can’t virtually “wait” for more than one attraction at the same time. However, what it does have in common with Walt Disney World's system is of course the RFID wristbands used to "hold" guests' place in line. And while it might be tempting to draw a direct parallel to Walt Disney World, it is important to remember that not only was Wet 'n Wild using RFID technology several years before MagicBands burst on the scene, but also that when you are dealing with a water park, some kind of wearable is really the only option for a virtual queue, as guests often aren't using their smartphones and a paper-based system is impractical for obvious reasons.
Of course, this system is still very much in the testing phase, and that is a good thing, as Universal probably has big plans for it moving forward…