We first heard about Universal’s plans to add Facial Recognition or should we say Photo Validation to the parks when it was announced for Epic Universe by Universal Destination and Experiences CEO Mark Woodrow back in September. It was also announced that Photo Validation would be introduced to Universal Studios Florida and Universal’s Islands of Adventure in the future.
According to a post by Bioreconstruct, Photo Validation is now is “technical rehearsal” at Universal’s Islands of Adventure. On the sign which is displayed at the entrance to the park it clearly says that it will be used on an unscheduled and limited basis showing that this process is at the earliest stage of testing.

A look at the facial recognition system in technical rehearsal at Islands of Adventure. Just this area, at far right of the gates.Hopefully @UniversalORL will test the huge volume and pressure of Horror Nights admissions soon. pic.twitter.com/gY5WHdzIAm
— bioreconstruct (@bioreconstruct) October 16, 2023
Interestingly, it also says that Photo Validation is optional and guests can opt-out. This opt-out choice which is currently available may not be guaranteed as easily in the future, if the park adopted a whole park Facial Recognition policy which we assume will be the case. This poses questions about privacy and personal choice.
We discussed the pros and cons regarding this process in our recent news article, Facial Recognition To Be Used At Epic Universe When It Opens In 2025, What Are The Pros And Cons?
As we understand it, here is a simplified version of how “photo validation” would likely work. It will capture a photo of a guests face at the park entrance which is then linked to their ticket or other credentials, connecting their face to their account. Through the use of scanners, guests can then be given access to the parts of the park and services their ticket allows throughout their visit.  
Before making your mind up about whether you are okay with this new Photo Validation system, the proposed system Universal has patented is that on exiting the park, your facial identification data is removed from the park database meaning it is only stored when you are actively in the theme park.
This also means that accuracy and success of facial recognition which was another con we discussed, should be better because the database is only storing a set amount of faces each day reducing the amount of processing power needed.
Image: UniversalIt is however, for many still another element to process in a world where more and more of our personal data seems to be stored and used in ways we may be fundamentally unhappy with.
Long gone are the days when we simply purchased a ticket and our finger prints and faces were not taken and stored on databases. Technology brings with it advances and convenience in connecting tickets and reservations but for many can cause a lot of added anxiety to what should be a stress-free enjoyable experience.
In our recent poll we asked you, Are you happy that Universal will use facial recognition at Epic Universe? The results currently show that only 37% voted “yes” with a huge majority saying “no”. We now have a new poll, Are you happy that Photo Validation will be used at Universal’s Islands of Adventure? We are expecting similar results and can use both of these to judge current guest opinion on this new system.
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It will be very interesting to see how the technical rehearsal goes at Universal’s Islands of Adventure over the coming months. Let us know what you think about Photo Validation by voting in our poll or by leaving us a comment below or on our Facebook page.

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