- VR experiences have the unique ability to transport riders inside a story – or off to other worlds.
For theme park designers gathered at the annual Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) Summit at Disneyland this year, the mission was clear. As reported in The OC Register, it’s all about creating more immersive experiences for the thrill-seeking public.
Rapidly evolving immersive technology is providing incredible new opportunities to reinvent and reinvigorate amusement parks for a whole new generation. For aging theme parks and rides, virtual reality (VR) and immersive experiences are just the ticket – with their unique ability to transport riders inside a story and off to other worlds.
Immersive technology is a cost-effective way to upgrade existing investments without the huge expense of building new rides. You can add a whole new interactive element to existing rides with virtual reality, something that can already be experienced on the Revolution roller coaster at Six Flags Magic Mountain. Equipped with Samsung Gear VR headsets powered by Oculus, the New Revolution Galactic Attack version is perfectly synched with the sound and images of a 360 VR world, according to Investopedia. During the mixed reality experience, riders must make quick-trigger decisions to save the world from an alien attack.
Disney Imagineers are hard at work too; on what many in the industry believe will be a whole new level of both immersive and interactive experience: the 14-acre Star Wars land. Through the use of VR and other immersive technology taken to new heights, guests at the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World will find a continuously evolving story that they can make their own each time they visit.
“Thanks to new technology,” according to The OCR article, “Disney plans to have stories change and evolve for individual visitors, making them believe they have been transported to a never-before-seen planet, making Star Wars characters and their stories come to life.”
For those not wanting to wait until Star Wars land’s scheduled opening in 2019, there’s the new addition to Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida: Pandora – The World of Avatar. Director James Cameron was instrumental in designing this new immersive theme park based on his sci-fi blockbuster Avatar. The featured attraction, Flight of Passage, has been kept under tight wraps, but promises to take fans on a virtual wild ride through the Pandora jungle on the back of a flying banshee, according to Travel + Leisure magazine.
Water parks are getting in on the interactive, immersive action too, with something called “slideboarding,” according to The OCR. At Wet and Wild in Las Vegas, a specialized slide board lets riders score points and compete with others inside a water slide equipped with VR game technology. “It’s like a video game come to life in a water slide,” according to its inventor, Denise Chapman Weston. For competitive types, it encourages repeat visits to the park to improve their scores and rankings amongst other players.
This all points the way to the immersive next stage, where riders can actually interact with each other in real time. Creating shared experiences is the Holy Grail that will enable theme parks to keep growing and pushing the boundaries of immersive entertainment.
Check out the immersive twists and turns of the New Revolution.
“Disneyland and other theme parks go all-in with immersion, interactive experiences,” (The Orange County Register, May 2017).
“Everything we know about Disney’s Avatar theme park so far,” (Travel + Leisure, May 2017).
“How Theme Parks Are Tackling VR, Augmented Reality,” (Investopedia, March 2017).