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Universal Parks and Resorts & Facial Technology

AlexanderMBush

Legendary Member
Nov 23, 2013
17,512
Arizona
In what feels like an eternity..I feel like we should have a thread dedicated towards a particular subject that had been once talked about as a rumor, to now turn as a real thing being worked on: Facial Technology at Universal Park's and Resorts.

To state the facts: Universal Parks and Resorts is working with a Chinese group called Alibaba, a worldwide congolomerate group nestled in Mainland China, with Universal Beijing being the official launching pad for the first use of Facial Recognition technology in the parks.

News Detail


The strategic partnership aims to provide guests with an unprecedented experience

Beijing, China, October 17, 2019 –Alibaba Group [NYSE:BABA] and Universal Beijing Resort today announced a strategic partnership to pioneer a next-generation theme-park experience through applications of innovative technologies and digitization of the entire resort operation.

The collaboration between Alibaba, a world-leading technology company, and Universal Beijing, a widely anticipated theme park destination scheduled to open in 2021, will capitalize on the strengths of both organizations to create a seamless experience throughout every stage of the guests’ journey with smart technology. The resort is expected to set a new benchmark for the entertainment and theme park industry globally.

Guests in order from left to right: Duan Qiang, Party Secretary and Chairman of Beijing Tourism Group;Daniel Zhang, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group;Brian Roberts, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Comcast Corporation

Offering Seamless and Memorable Guest Experiences

"We put significant thought into the experiences we create for our guests," said Mr. Brian Roberts, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Comcast Corporation. "That experience is about more than our great rides and attractions. It’s about making it fun and easy for our guests to enjoy their time with family and friends. Our partnership with Alibaba will help us do exactly that. Together, we can take the theme park experience to a new level."

"Together with Universal Beijing Resort, we hope to offer a delightful experience that is unmatched anywhere to consumers in China and from around the world. This partnership will also bring to fruition a multi-dimensional data-enabled operations management solution for the industry and create a truly digitized theme park," said Daniel Zhang, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Alibaba Group. "The future of commerce is driven by technology and big data, and digitization will be the source of brand-new growth opportunities for all businesses."

Empowering Universal Beijing Resort with Alibaba Technology

Universal Beijing will leverage the Alibaba Business Operating System—a complete suite of services and digital tools by Alibaba—to digitize the operations and management of the theme park to ensure guests a one-of-a-kind experience and unprecedented convenience even before they leave their homes.

For example, through integration with Alibaba’s online travel platform Fliggy, visitors can buy tickets and book hotels through the Universal Beijing flagship store with a few simple swipes on their phones.

Universal Beijing guests have the option of using Alipay’s facial-recognition technology across the resort, from park entry to storage lockers to express-lane access to even payment for merchandise and meals.

Alibaba’s local service application, Koubei, will provide food and beverage recommendations based on guests’ preferences, and enable online meal purchases to minimize wait time.

Tmall, Alibaba’s premier online shopping platform, will be the resort’s e-commerce sponsor, and conduct co-marketing efforts with Universal Beijing Resort.

Through cooperation with Alibaba’s digital marketing platform Alimama and Alibaba’s online video hub Youku, guests can enjoy programming about the resort as well as access their favorite Universal movies in the Universal Brand Zone.

Alibaba and Universal Beijing are exploring the options of using Alipay mini apps to optimize guests’ overall experience. It will aim to improve trip planning, parking and other pain points usually faced by theme park visitors.

The resort will leverage Alibaba’s robust technology and consumer insights to offer guests with customized services and elevated park operations. Alibaba and Universal Beijing will create a truly consumer-centric ecosystem that will offer the ultimate guest experience that seamlessly brings together the best of online and offline. Alibaba Cloud will support the digitization and technology infrastructure of the theme park.

Creating a Greener Environment

Universal Beijing and Alibaba’s partnership also extends to Ant Forest, where low-carbon lifestyles will be promoted and users can help contribute to planting real trees in Tongzhou through low-carbon actions that convert into "green energy". Ticketless entry and digital payment provide guests with convenience, while reducing carbon footprint.

"Smart Cultural Tourism"

"Universal Beijing Resort is very honored to join hands with Alibaba, to be empowered with innovative technologies and digital ecosystems to realize ‘smart cultural tourism,’ as well as to set the mark for Universal Beijing as the pioneer of the theme park industry," said Mr. Duan Qiang, Party Secretary and Chairman of Beijing Tourism Group. "We will make unremitting efforts to establish Universal Beijing as the new landmark of Beijing cultural tourism, while actively contributing to the implementation of the planning and construction of Beijing subcenter and help enhance the development of Beijing’s tourism."
They have also now commented about future use of Facial Recognition in the parks, thanks to a statement via Michael Silver; Global Business Development of Universal Parks and Resorts.

Facial recognition is our one-stop for everything we do: Universal Parks

Now if this all sounds familar to you, then you'd be reminded of the fact that this has been a rumored topic before: thanks to Theme Park University for blowing up the subject.

https://themeparkuniversity.com/universal/universal-orlandos-secret-face-recognition-program-revealed/

To propose the question: With Universal's comments of their relationship for Alibaba, how would you feel of other Universal Parks globally (such as Orlando, Hollywood or Japan) adapting towards the potential of Facial Technology?
 
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AlexanderMBush

Legendary Member
Nov 23, 2013
17,512
Arizona
Terrible. I hate it. Especially with a Chinese company’s tech
What makes me..passive on it, is that I've somewhat had a feeling that we'd go down a path to either this, or a full on Tapu-Tapu level system. We could very well go into both, by the end of the next decade.

I could see USJ testing something similar for this, in the sake of the Worlds Fair 2025 hitting Osaka (which I do genuinely think that Comcast/NBCUniversal already is aware and planning big steps for USJ). Hollywood has both the FIFA World Cup in 2026 (Potentially) and the 2028 LA Olympics, and they've been slowly doing Virtual Queues with Waterworld (and has been said here, to have a VQ for Pets). And Epic Universe will have direct Hotel and Park connection, the first time for the Domestic Parks since Grand Californian at DCA.

I am not fond of the idea of Alibaba having a hand, but knowing the level of sophistication that they already have in their belt thanks to their appliances of Facial Technology in other places. I'm curious to know if it's entirely Alibaba being involved with this; especially considering the rumors of Facial Recognition started back in 2017. If they've been on-board since the start, that raises a good amount of questions.
 
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quinnmac000

Veteran Member
May 14, 2014
5,543
Seoul, Korea
This really doesn't bother me mainly because its becoming the way of the world we live in. We already have cameras/sensors all around us recording us from personal cell phones, CCTV cameras, your smart television devices and more.

I think for me, its about the execution of the data received and the utilization of the technology.
 
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Andysol

Veteran Member
Jun 21, 2016
3,765
This really doesn't bother me mainly because its becoming the way of the world we live in. We already have cameras/sensors all around us recording us from personal cell phones, CCTV cameras, your smart television devices and more.
Not that big tech should be entirely trusted, but I’d be more than fine with it coming to the domestic parks as long as it was a domestic, European, Mexican, Japanese, Korean, Taiwanese, you name it; company.
China? Hard pass.
The chasm between my comfort level of China or America when it comes to having that information is as vast as the Grand Canyon.

Anyone who needs a refresher can look no further than Hong Kong.
 
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Andysol

Veteran Member
Jun 21, 2016
3,765
That's the system they'd be using.
I thought the testing on that system hasn’t been working nearly as well as they expected. Even doing express, it fails often.

I wouldn’t be surprised if another company or tech took it over for EU.
 
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Joe

aka TestTrack321
Staff member
Moderator
Feb 15, 2012
12,796
Pittsburgh, PA
I thought the testing on that system hasn’t been working nearly as well as they expected. Even doing express, it fails often.

I wouldn’t be surprised if another company or tech took it over for EU.
I have no idea, probably true if it's not working as well as they want. Honestly I haven't used it, haven't done daytime Express in several years. I still hate the face recognition stuff and think there's a better way to bridge all these passes and keys. Feels like Universal is getting too "cute" with one upping Disney's MagicBands.
 
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Scott W.

Premium Member
Feb 26, 2014
13,156
Glasgow
I thought the testing on that system hasn’t been working nearly as well as they expected. Even doing express, it fails often.

I wouldn’t be surprised if another company or tech took it over for EU.
I used it last year and it worked pretty flawlessly for me but my wife’s photo was basically a black blob and she waved through every time so there’s still a person involved with that system.

I don’t have an issue with Universal having my photo, they’ve been taking on ride photos for decades with no issue plus with the whole 2009 v 2019 photo thing on Twitter just now, people are actively uploading photos of themselves anyway.

My real issue is how it’s going to be implemented. If the system crashes, what’s the back up plan? It sounds like a giant experiment with very little improvement over the current systems.

The parks have been using facial recognition for a long time. There’s stories about paedophiles getting into the Magic Kingdom and not make it a 1/4 of the way down Main Street before security has approached them and escorted them out the park. I might be remembering this story wrong but when Universal tested their facial recognition software, it was working well until a school came in where every student had the same t shirts on with a photo of somebody on it. The system kept crashing because it kept tagging the person on the t shirt at being in multiple locations constantly.
 

NJBrandon

Premium Member
Jun 28, 2013
683
I thought the testing on that system hasn’t been working nearly as well as they expected. Even doing express, it fails often.

I wouldn’t be surprised if another company or tech took it over for EU.
Yeah, in our group of 4, most times we used it it only matched 2 of us. Lots of times it would go blue(fail) instead of green(pass).
 
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VolcanoAye

Member
Sep 15, 2019
816
The current face rec was pretty shaky in the mummy express line but I’m guessing it was the darkness
 

GAcoaster

V.I.P.
Nov 30, 2012
4,122
Orlando
The thought of any kind of privacy is LONG gone at this point. I'd guess that Disney is already using the technology on the DL. Most people don't care, and if you do care that much I guess you'll have to become a agoraphobic with no internet or phone service in your home to avoid the use of facial recognition everywhere.

In the mean time everyone s posting their current picture and picture form 10 years ago willingly on Facebook so their facial recognition database can be updated...
 
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Magic Feather

Member
Apr 19, 2019
525
The thought of any kind of privacy is LONG gone at this point. I'd guess that Disney is already using the technology on the DL. Most people don't care, and if you do care that much I guess you'll have to become a agoraphobic with no internet or phone service in your home to avoid the use of facial recognition everywhere.

In the mean time everyone s posting their current picture and picture form 10 years ago willingly on Facebook so their facial recognition database can be updated...
Yeah... Uni is definitely not the only group looking to use facial in the long term...
 
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