Much as Formula One motorsport breaks new ground with technologies that eventually find their way into our domestic vehicles, theme park rides offer a fertile ground for developing and testing cutting-edge technologies that create increasingly immersive experiences – many of which will eventually power mainstream entertainment and next generation collaboration, training and visualisation applications.
A recent ‘field trip’ (family holiday) to Orlando, Florida highlighted some of the ways that immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and robotics are having big bucks spent on them to blur the lines between reality and fantasy but with real opportunities to inspire.
I’ve chosen three of the best to inspire you to think bigger - or just give you some future holiday ideas.
Based at Disney Springs, the Void’s, Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire, creates an immersive VR experience where players don headsets and back mounted computer and battery packs to enter a completely imagined and computer-generated world as a team of undercover stormtroopers. Here the team can battle Empire baddies with laser blasters, interact and bump into each other and, hopefully, eventually save the rebel alliance. While we may have experienced VR, this brings the added dimension of interacting with physical elements of the sets or tools that are then mirrored in the virtual space.
At Universal Studios, Harry Potter fans get some of the most advanced experiences in the World with Escape from Gringott’s and the Forbidden Journey. The latter sees participants take an enchanted rollercoaster flight around Hogwarts and a game of Quidditch, encountering on the way, a dragon and dementors all achieved through a combination of physical sets, 3D projects, robot-controlled motion control and animatronics real-world wizardry. Groups of four are held on the end of a Kuka robot arm which can manoeuvre them in 360 degrees whilst itself moving along a rollercoaster track through a physical set to interact with various robotic and animatronic effects. Throughout the ride, projected sequences blend in seamlessly to fill the field of view and create a 3D view that stretches beyond the physical sets into computer-generated sequences.
For a reported cost of half a billion dollars, Avatar: Light of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom creates another flight of fantasy with riders securely seated on the back of a Banshee as they fly over the beautifully 3D rendered world of Pandora. The ride allows up to 125 people at one time to on motion-controlled seats that create an extreme feeling of movement coupled with a 3D IMAX movie 20m wide 10m high screen that completely fills the field of view.
Whilst these experiences may seem a long way off being practically achievable or even applicable in a business environment, we are already developing solutions that use the base technologies. Just like Formula One, direct-shift gearboxes, anti-lock braking systems and carbon-fibre bodies had to start somewhere.
If you want to see and discuss some of the next generation immersive technologies that are coming to our industry, visit our stand 3B70 at SPE Offshore Europe 2019 from 3 - 6 September 2019.