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Walt Disney World 'fingerprinting' visitors: Magic Kingdom, or Mickey Mouse?

Walt Disney shareholders will be happy if theme park revenues are safeguarded by U.S. Government grade technology developed to enhance our nation’s security, but is it a good thing?
Written by Donna Bogatin, Contributor
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In “The moving finger” fellow ZDNet blogger Ed Gottsman notes the University of Buffalo VR Lab has developed “a cap for your index finger that is exquisitely sensitive to movement–to the point that it can actually be used as a 3D digitizer.”

Developed by the lab’s director, Kesh Kesavadas, and alum Youngseok Kim, the “Fingertip Digitizer” represents "a sensory-enhanced virtual environment where both man and machine perfectly share the haptic stimuli using the active touch paradigm."

Kesavadas and Kim on the advantage of their creation:

Direct finger touch interface in most human-computer interface require smart panels, such as touch screens or pressure pads. With these interfaces, however, a user's tactile activity is limited to few modalities, such as pressing or dragging. Many common tactile activities used in real life such as rubbing, palpating, scratching etc cannot be captured by such devices…

This device captures physical phenomena at the fingertip during dynamic tactile activities.

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Photo: University of Buffalo Virtual Reality Lab

Practical applications considered: “Use your finger as an input device: 2D painting, 3D object digitizing, windows desktop applications, etc...”

While the University of Buffalo is contemplating how individuals can better their personal experiences by using their fingertips as 3D digitizers, Walt Disney World is preparing to “fingerprint” visitors to its four Orlando theme parks to deter ticket “fraud” at the Magic Kingdom.

Below is Disney signage instructing theme park visitors on how to use its existing “Ticket Tag” security system which records onto tickets the “geometry and shape of visitors' fingers” in order to prevent sharing or resale of multiday admission passes:

1) Insert ticket
2) Insert fingers
3) Enter park and pick up ticket

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For Disney, however, “Ticket Tag” may merely be “Mickey Mouse.” It is implementing a “technology upgrade” to enhanced fingerprint-scanning, according to Associated Press reports.

Disney describes the new security system:

takes an image, identifies a series of points, measures the distance between those points, and turns it into a numerical value.

What is Disney’s rationale for scanning Magic Kingdom visitors’ fingers?

It's very important that a guest who purchases the ticket is the guest who uses it.

Disney has declined to identify the supplier of its new fingerprint scanners. The vendor is rumored to be Lumidgm, a New Mexico-based developer of “ biometrically enabled products.”

Lumidgm asks ”In our global society, how can you be sure who you’re dealing with?” and answers: "Biometrics—technologies that use physical or behavioral characteristics to verify the identity of an individual—allows an individual to efficiently conduct transactions, access locations, and use services as a 'recognized entity.'"

Lumidgm claims its access control system technology is "vastly superior to conventional fingerprint technologies":

Currently deployed systems cannot obtain adequate fingerprints from up to sixteen percent of the population; LightPrint sensors can reduce that rate to nearly zero. Lumidigm has developed a multispectral imager (MSI) that is able to collect additional information from below the surface of the skin. Unlike traditional technology, LightPrint technology is not dependent on the quality or authenticity of the fingerprint ridges presented. The LightPrint sensor can look beyond surface ridges to verify their authenticity and enhance the identifying image. If the carpenter with the worn ridges presses the platen, the LightPrint sensor can read the unique unaffected fingerprint under the skin and enhance the image. Similarly, if there is water or “normal” city grime obscuring the surface ridges, or if the finger isn't fully touching the sensor, environmentally robust LightPrint technology can enhance the incomplete surface ridge information with data from below the surface of the skin. The LightPrint sensor’s spoof detection ability is unique. LightPrint technology can detect a fraudulent fingerprint (a “spoof”) easily by measuring the subsurface data (or lack of subsurface data!) against known characteristics of living skin.

The U.S. Government also believes Lumidgm’s technology is not “Mickey Mouse." The company has received development funds from the DoD Air Force, Army, and Navy, and intelligence agencies, NSA and CIA.

Walt Disney shareholders are undoubtedly thrilled that the company’s theme park revenues are being safeguarded by U.S. Government grade technology. Is it a good thing, however, if systems developed to enhance our nation’s security find their way into “Mickey Mouse” corporate commercial applications?

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