Disney Imaginations

Role: Visual Design

Fall 2014 - Carnegie Mellon

About The Contest

"Imaginations is a design competition created and sponsored by Walt Disney Imagineering with the purpose of seeking out and nurturing the next generation of diverse Imagineers...Imaginations opens up the opportunity for students to showcase their skills and talents to Imagineering through a Disney related project. Provided with a project challenge, students and recent graduates work in teams to deliver a concept in a similar way to how Imagineers develop their blue sky projects. In a matter of weeks, teams have to leverage their various artistic, technical and communication skills to prepare a submission that will appeal to judges whose backgrounds include a wide array of creative and technical disciplines."

This year's competition included the challenge to take what Disney does best and apply it to transportation.

We were selected as semifinalists!

Our Submission

DisKey is a personalized token that unlocks the magic of public transportation for riders on their daily commute. From automated route reminders to passive payment through contactless smartcards, the DisKey provides an efficient means of traveling through the city. Additionally, the DisKey is integrated into a larger network of mobile apps, informational kiosks, buses, light rails, and the city’s transportation authority, creating a seamless end-to-end experience for its users. These same elements provide the city a wealth of aggregate data, allowing it to analyze rider habits and to optimize its resources.

However, logistics are just the beginning. DisKey personalizes its users’ journeys by learning their interests and tailoring the content that it presents, aiming to delight and inspire citizens to learn more about their city. On DisKey vehicles, transparent LCD windows create an Augmented Reality (AR) for each rider. These projections reveal information about various points of interests along the route, as well as the latest news on events happening around town. Individual pixel projection creates personalized viewing angles that ensure each rider gets his or her own unique experience.

Riders are encouraged to interact with one another via prompts in the presented content and through the communal photo feed generated by all DisKey riders. DisKey cities encourage their citizens to become more connected with both their city and their neighbors, fostering a greater sense of community and engagement.

Our Inspiration

Our team’s inspiration extended beyond the amazing characters of our youth; we were struck by the entire Disney experience. The immersive environments, seamless optimization, and emphasis on personalization always transport us regardless of age. It’s about magic. With this in mind, we chose to tackle challenges associated with an experience with decidedly less magic: public transportation. How could we transform something as mundane as our daily commutes into a wondrous interaction that is widely sought after? Inspired by the interactive journeys crafted around the ride lines at Disney parks, we sought to engage citizens with a dynamic and interactive experience that conjures the illusion of shorter wait times. To improve payment and create a unified, personal experience, we looked to MagicBands. We were excited by the idea of a collectible token that is central to the commuter experience. Passive payments and simple interfaces allow users to remain engaged in the fantasy of their ride. We also aspired to replicate the large-scale data optimization behind FastPass. By harnessing the power of aggregate data, we hope to empower cities with improved logistics that lower costs while increasing satisfaction. This challenge was about instilling a sense of Disney magic in riders’ everyday lives.

Our Scenario

From the start, Joe feels like there is a magical force guiding his day. His DisKey has learned his frequent travel habits, and his phone alerts him that he should leave in 5 minutes to catch his usual bus to work. Upon arriving at the stop, Joe sees his bus just a couple of blocks away; it feels like kismet. Joe boards the bus, and the doorway senses his individual DisKey, deducting his fare. Because no one has to fumble with change or cards, everything is more efficient. Joe takes a seat and is mesmerized by the wealth of information about his city projected on the windows.

DisKey knows that Joe is a huge foodie and alerts him to a food truck gathering on the National Mall. Joe is so enthralled by his AR experience that the bus approaches his office before he knows it. His DisKey vibrates to remind him that his destination is coming up, and Joe taps it to signal the driver to stop. Upon departing the bus, Joe’s day is just a little brighter. His commute flew by, and he feels more connected his city.

Video Walkthrough


We narrowed our ideas down to four possibilities, and used storyboards to further refine those ideas. We then used the speed dating method to rapidly test our 3 ideas with friends, family, and colleagues to get feedback.

My Team

My team was made up of 4 Masters Students in the Human Computer Interaction program at Carnegie Mellon University. Along with myself, the team included Joyce Liu, Mike Vu, and Zach Aman