Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

CTIA Notebook: Mobilized Meets the Muggles at Universal Orlando

Before and after this week’s CTIA trade show in Orlando, Mobilized indulged her Harry Potter fan side and trekked to Hogwarts–at least the amusement park version of the wizarding school.

For those who haven’t seen it, the Wizarding World of Harry Potter is quite the tribute to J.K. Rowling’s mega-popular series of books and movies. While the village of Hogsmeade is nice, the centerpiece attraction is the Hogwarts castle itself. While waiting for the main ride, muggles wind their way through various corridors and are treated to brief cameos from the actors in the Potter movies.

Other nice touches include artifacts from the books and the pictures of the various headmasters and prominent past teachers whose moving portraits talk and argue with one another. I also enjoyed the Daily Prophet, complete with its own embedded movie. (Mobilized is always a sucker for a newspaper.)

Mobilized felt it was her duty to ride each of the rides several times, as well as indulge in a bit of butterbeer and some sweets from Honeydukes. I did manage to show a little restraint and stopped short of buying a wand. (That may also have had something to do with the fact that the line to get into Olivander’s stretched for more than an hour)

But, while Harry Potter-land was probably the highlight of the visit, some of the coolest technology was in other parts of Islands of Adventure and the neighboring Universal Studios Orlando.

Particularly noteworthy was the use of fingerprinting as a means of authentication. Multi-day pass users had to place their finger on a scanner and use that to show that it was the same person attempting to enter the park each day.

And that wasn’t the only way in which Universal made use of biometrics. The lockers near the Harry Potter rides and elsewhere at the park used fingerprints to lock and unlock lockers.

Creepy or convenient? A little bit of both, I’d say.

The other nifty bit of technology was tied to a roller coaster at Universal Studios, the park next to Islands of Adventure. The Rock-It ride offers riders their choice of soundtrack as they scream and yell through drops, twists and turns. Mobilized went with Evanescence.

Even more intriguing (and probably profitable for Universal) was the option at the end of the ride not just to purchase a still photo, but also a DVD featuring a music video that incorporated live video of the ride, 3-D renderings and the selected song as the soundtrack.

Fork over $40 or so and you get a picture and the video, which is able to isolate a particular rider. The video also does a great job of using computer images and generic footage to augment the relatively few seconds of video it has of each rider.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work