Epic Universe, Universal

CEO of Universal Destinations & Experiences, Mark Woodbury confirmed earlier this month at the Bank of America Media, Communications and Entertainment Conference that Epic Universe will be the "most technologically advanced park" yet. As part of this, "facial recognition, photo validation technology" will be used to give guests a "frictionless experience" which is also planned to be used across the other Universal parks in Orlando.

Now, for many, when the words "facial recognition" are uttered, instant thoughts of the violation of privacy and potential data leaks spring to mind as covered in our recent news article, Facial Recognition To Be Used At Epic Universe When It Opens In 2025, What Are The Pros And Cons?

​However, in a new video posted to YouTube by Theme Park Stop which has been embedded above, we get to hear further details about the patent Universal filed in 2020. The patent is named, "Efficient Management of Facial Recognition Systems and Methods in Multiple Areas" and relates to a piece of technology which will allow this confirmed "photo validation" process to happen at Epic Universe.

How will "photo validation work"?

Epic Universe, Universal
Image: Universal

Here is a simplified version of how "photo validation" would likely work. It will capture a photo of a guests face at the park entrance which is then linked to their ticket or other credentials, connecting their face to their account. Through the use of scanners, guests can then be given access to the parts of the park and services their ticket allows throughout their visit.

The real positive about the proposed system Universal has patented is that on exiting the park, your facial identification data is removed from the park database meaning it is only stored when you are actively in the theme park.

This also means that accuracy and success of facial recognition which was another con we discussed, should be better because the database is only storing a set amount of faces each day reducing the amount of processing power needed.

This "photo validation" process is essentially like an upgrade of the finger biometric scanners which are in place currently in the Orlando theme parks. The process will validate you which may help concerns surrounding personal data and violation of your own privacy. 

The problem will come if there will not be a choice to opt out of this "photo validation" process. Currently guests have the choice to show photo ID rather than having their finger print scanned. 

It doesn't appear to be the case that opting out will be an easy thing to do when it comes to "photo validation" at Epic Universe but there is a clause in the patent which states "Guests may opt out of using the facial recognition technology of the theme park, and instead opt in to using alternative access grant methods, such as a wearable device."

However, there is no confirmation as of yet as to whether this opt out function will be implemented.

With this "photo validation" technology, if linked with further patents which allows for guest credentials to be cross referenced it could mean that, Universal Express lines could be walked into without the need for scanning tickets. Although this sounds excellent on paper, in reality this could cause delays if there are issues with this system meaning guests who should be able to access the Express lane for attractions can not do so.

How will "photo validation" help with an open hub structure?

Epic Universe, Universal
Image: Universal

The long rumored "open hub" structure for Epic Universe which would mean that guests could potentially enter the central hub free of charge to access dining and retail locations would certainly benefit enormously from this "photo validation" technology.

Scanners would be located at the entrance portals to the four lands and guests who had paid for entry would be able to walk right in only being stopped by a Team Member if they had not got the needed access on their credentials. This should allow for a faster and easier entry without the need for the crowd and queue forming turnstiles.

We await further details about if and how this "open hub" structure will be implemented at Epic Universe but it certainly seems like a sensible idea. To add extra weight to this theory, recent permit filings can be seen for overhead sensors in portal entries as well as some Express line entries.

This "open hub" structure for Epic Universe would particularly work best in the evenings when many people may want to access the park but only for dining and retail and therefore wouldn't need to pay for entry to the themed lands.

As it has been stated that Epic Universe will be the "most technologically advanced park" we would expect this "photo validation" technology to be used for hotel entry, virtual line return and as already mentioned the Express Line entry.

There has also been hints that this "photo validation" could also be used for paying for items at dining and retail locations across the park.

It seems very likely that this new "photo validation" system could come to Universal Studios Florida and Universal's Islands of Adventure ahead of the opening of Epic Universe in 2025. This will certainly give Universal the chance to fully test the system and iron out any issues before it is fully rolled out at Epic Universe.

What are your thoughts on "photo validation"?

Epic Universe, Universal
Image: Universal

Based on our current poll, Are you happy that Universal will use facial recognition at Epic Universe?, only 37% voted "Yes" with the remaining 67% saying "No. Having heard these further details regarding how this proposed "photo validation" technology could work, we assume that people may be more accommodating to it. Let us know what you think by voting in our new poll, Are you happy for "photo validation" to be used at Epic Universe?, or by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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