Disney location-based services on Nintendo DS.

Wired reports on this intriguing modified Nintendo DS called "Disney Magic Connection" that offers location-based services (navigation, where to find what...). But it seems that it was not so much of a success.

Interestingly, Jim Hill describes what went wrong:

"The problem wasn't with the technology. From what I hear, aside from a few minor GPS & battery-related issues, the "Disney Magic Connection" units worked great. (...) the Imagineers had originally hoped that they'd be able to recruit upwards of 60 families to take part in each day's field test. But on most days, WDI had to settle for less than half that number. Mostly because cast members had such a tough time convincing families to come try "Disney Magic Connection." (...) ost people have already invested an hour of their precious vacation time just in getting to the entrance of the Magic Kingdom. And to finally make it through the turnstiles and really be looking forward to that first ride ... And then have some clown with a clipboard accost you, asking you if you'd be interested in taking part in some pilot program, was more than most parents with small children could bear at that moment. (...) Another aspect of the "Disney Magic Connection" field test that allegedly turned off a lot of would-be participants was the security deposit. You see, before these folks could actually get their hands on that DS, they were asked for a credit card. Which Mickey then took an imprint of. So that -- in the event that these Magic Kingdom visitors accidentally left the theme park without first returning their test unit -- Mouse House officials could then charge them $300 for the missing device. (...) Another cost-effective aspect of the "Disney Magic Connection" project is that these handheld units actually make use of the 400+ sensors that were put in place in this theme park back in 2004 for the "Pal Mickey" project. Of course, because there were areas in the Magic Kingdom where WDI deliberately didn't put sensors (So that this interactive plush then wouldn't speak up and ruin the show for all of the other guests) ... The Imagineers had to install hundreds of additional sensors so that these Nintendo DS units would then tell the guests where they were. (...) And -- yes -- I did say "rent." As of right now, the Walt Disney Company has no plans to sell these handheld units. Nor will you be able to bring your own Nintendo DS into the park from home and then tap into Disney's wireless network."

Why do I blog this? because it's a marvellous story of a technological failure. The service looks okay, the technology's there but there are lots of user and contextual issues that lead to this situation. Even the platform (Nintendo DS) is interesting but there's always more hidden below the technological/interface's structure.