Universal Orlando Starts Testing Facial Recognition Turnstiles at Islands of Adventure

Just a few weeks after Mark Woodbury revealed that the company was to start utilizing facial recognition technology at Universal Orlando, the first turnstile tests have begun at Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park.

Screens have been installed on a few of the existing turnstiles during this “technical rehearsal” of the new technology. Universal says that this new “Photo Validation” replaces the existing fingerprint scans when entering the park.

You can see the current testing set up, and how fast the process is, in the video above.

The current set up has the guest scan their park ticket, and then smile for a camera. You can see your photo being taken. Once captured, you receive a success message and are allowed entry into the park.

The first time you use this system will take a couple seconds longer, as it needs time to store your photo, but it may be faster on subsequent entries as your photo is already on file.

Screens added to turnstiles

Universal Orlando has added information about how the system works to their official website’s privacy page. They say that “Photo Validation is a new, faster, and more seamless way to begin your visit to Universal Islands of Adventure – you just scan, smile, and go!”

Photo Validation is used to to access select experiences – including verifying tickets and ticket holders at Universal Islands of Adventure Park Entry. Photo Validation is currently in Technical Rehearsal and will be available on a limited and unscheduled basis. Guests may continue to use their finger scan at lanes without Photo Validation during Technical Rehearsal.

Your photo is captured

The company says that guests are not required to use Photo Validation. Just like the process they have previously had in place for opting out of finger scans, guests who decide to opt-out will be required to present a Photo ID to validate their ticket.

For how it works, Universal says that the system takes your photo the first time you use your ticket. From that photo, the software builds a Photo Template. A Photo Template is a unique set of data points based on facial features. On subsequent entries, a new photo is taken to compare to the template stored in their database.

Success message once photo is taken or matched

The company claims that Photo Templates and images will be stored for no longer than six months after the expiration of your ticket. If you have an annual pass, that means your photo information will be kept on file as long as your pass is active. Universal reminds us that this is consistent with their prior entrance finger scan process.

Now, these tests may only be the beginning of a larger transition towards facial recognition technology, not only for the parks’ entry turnstiles, but for other services around Universal Orlando as well.

Rumor has it that by the time Epic Universe opens in 2025, the resort would like to move away from scanning physical tickets entirely. That could mean you would only have to scan your ticket the very first time you visit, to connect your credentials to your photo scan. Then on future visits during the same vacation, or when utilizing your annual pass, you could just walk right in.

Patent image for facial recognition system by Universal, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

We may still be a couple years away from that possible outcome, but the company has referred to their upcoming theme park in Orlando as their most technologically advanced to date.

For now, they seem to only be testing Photo Validation entry at a few turnstiles, only at Islands of Adventure, and only during select hours or days. As testing continues we may see more turnstiles upgraded for this process. I suspect that after Halloween Horror Nights ends, we may see testing begin over at Universal Studios Florida as well.

Currently, this process may not be much faster than finger scanning, but as they evolve their operations it may become, as Universal calls it, just one part of a more a “seamless” park going experience.

Be sure to check out our prior article and video update about how this technology may be utilized at Epic Universe. Stay tuned for more news and rumors for Epic Universe and the rest of the Universal Orlando Resort as they happen.

Subscribe to the news feed or enter your email address below to never miss an update. Photos & Video: Alicia Stella | Patent Images: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

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