According to the Los Angeles Times, specifically, the patent, titled System and method using foot recognition to create a customized guest experience, would scan guests shoes when they enter the park then track them as the move about. The patent describes a machine that takes photos of visitors’ feet as they enter a theme park and pairs the photos with demographic information given voluntarily, such as name, age or hometown.
Later in the park, another camera aimed at shoe level can identify a person at a ride or eatery based on the earlier foot photo. Disney can use this information to let costumed characters greet a visitor by name or make it easier to identify a person on a ride and send the visitor photos or videos of the visitor on the an attraction, according to the patent.
Customer data is crucial in the theme park industry because it helps parks track the movement of visitors, making it easier to deploy workers to busy attractions and stores and determine preferences for marketing purposes. At Walt Disney World in Florida, people who stay in a Disney hotel or have an annual pass can get a wristband with a microchip that can be used to enter the park, buy food, store fast-passes for attractions and open a hotel room door.
According to the Orlando Business Journal, the scanners could discern everything from shoe color, to wear patterns, to gum stuck on the sole. Disney filed for the patent back in 2015; it was issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on July 19.
The company, however, said it has no plans to actually use its foot camera patent. “In our ongoing effort to relentlessly innovate and push the boundaries of creativity and technology to create immersive experiences and legendary guest service, we file many patents annually — some come to fruition and others do not,” Disney spokeswoman Suzi Brown said.
Disney had already decided against biometric scanning—such as fingerprinting, retinal scans, and facial recognition—to track visitors because it considers it too invasive, said The Strack. Plus those methods can be thrown off by things like hats and sunglasses. The company also didn't want to track clothing because that would "require cameras that are visible to the person." The shoe-scanning cameras throughout the park would be "out of a person's line of sight."
The Orlando Business Journal said that "Disney improving its guest experience could result in new and repeat visitation that drives Central Florida's $66 billion tourism and travel industry and attracts 60 million people annually to the region.