This is an excerpt. Read the full, illustrated piece at Medium's re:form channel

I am in Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, and I am standing in line. My family is awaiting entrance to Be Our Guest, a Beauty and the Beast-themed quick-service restaurant nestled into the recently-revamped Fantasyland. It’s late spring in central Florida, and it’s hot. A Disney “cast member” wheels out a cart with drinking water and disposable cups, and each family in the queue quickly deploys a resupply team. At Disney World, even modest wishes come true.

A secondary queue awaits us inside, and eventually we order braised pork and cream puffs. Other vacationers are carrying away red and yellow rose-shaped renditions of the buzzing pagers common to restaurants. “Do we need a rose?” my wife asks. “No,” the cast member responds, “We’ll find you by your MagicBand.”

She’s referring to the colorful wristbands now provided to Walt Disney World Resort guests. Rubberized, waterproof, and emblazoned with Mickey’s iconic silhouette, the MagicBand bracelets are a part of a new digital parks strategy Disney dubs MyMagic+. Besides wearables, MyMagic+ involves upgrades to in-park terminals for purchases and FastPass line-skipping services, a new vacation management mobile app, and improved back-office crowd management systems for traffic flow logistics.

Previously, park visitors received a payment card-sized pass with a magnetic stripe and an embedded radio frequency identification (RFID) proximity sensor. These cards served many purposes: they provided entry to your resort room and to the parks (working in tandem with biometric sensors), as well as allowing charges to your Disney account from anywhere on the property.

I had thought that the MagicBand bracelets just replicated this old functionality in a slightly more convenient, striking format. But the Be Our Guest cashier’s words gives me pause. “We’ll find you by your MagicBand?”

We install ourselves at a table in the Rose Gallery, one of the cavernous rooms themed to mimic the Beast’s enchanted castle. Mere minutes pass, and our food arrives unceremoniously, carted forth from some unseen kitchen and dispensed without fanfare.

“What just happened?” I ask. “MagicBand,” my wife shrugs. Be our guest indeed.

Continue reading the full, illustrated piece at Medium’s re:form channel

published July 29, 2014