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Guest Article: The Future of Interactive Attractions, Farrah Hedwat – FloridaTix

16 Apr

The Future of Interactive Attractions

Imagine taking a person from the 90s to the theme parks and attractions of today. What would you show them? Which rides would you go on? Would much have changed in these years? The 90s don’t seem like a long time ago, but sometimes I like to remind myself of how I old I really am when I think that the Jurassic Park movie came out nearly 20 years ago in 1993!

This was almost the same year I went to Orlando for the first time and experienced the awe and wonder of Walt Disney World, Universal Studios and SeaWorld. Since my most recent visit in October last year I can appreciate that a lot has changed with the opening of bigger more advanced rides and attractions, giving me a whole new perspective.

3D Fun and Interaction

One thing that stuck out for me was the number of 3D rides Universal Studios had built since my first visit in the 90s. The Simpsons Ride, Shrek 4D and the Forbidden Journey in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter were all new exciting experiences for me, but the one that stuck out as the most memorable was the Amazing Adventures of Spiderman in the Islands of Adventure. Although this ride is not interactive, it is a huge leap in how we experience rides, seamlessly immersing us into a fictional world of Marvel. Could we see more of these kinds of rides in the future? If other theme parks noticed the kind of success these 3D attractions received, we could no doubt expect to see this becoming a trend over the next few years.

Something else which was new since my first visit was the competitive attractions which pit guests against their friends in an effort to win points. The best example of this was the MIB ride in Universal Studios, but Walt Disney World had managed to take it one step further. In the PIXAR area of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, the Toy Story ride combines the immersive experience of 3D with a competitive shooter. As you don the 3D glasses, guests must shoot balloons to get more points, with the winner displayed at the end. It’s a novel idea which has evolved and will hopefully become more popular over the years as the technology becomes more accessible.

Cast Members and Characters

The competitive attractions engage guests in a new way and encourage repeat visits as people try to get a new personal best on the score sheets. It was clear, judging from some of the scores, that a few people had been practicing quite a lot. But how do you use interactive experiences to encourage guests to explore the rest of the park?

Walt Disney World was the original brainchild for this when it introduced its characters to the park for the guests to see in real life. Fans of Disney, young and old, react with excitement at the sight of their favourite characters, giving them the chance to walk up to talk and even touch them. From princesses to the big cheese himself, Mickey Mouse, and if you keep your eyes open you can interact with cast members who really act like their characters from the movies.

It wasn’t long ago that the Disney parks showed off their new Mickey Mouse character complete with the ability to talk and respond to star dazed guests. With a fully animated face and friendly voice, Mickey can now converse with visitors asking them if they are having a good time and even answer their questions. Could this be another trend we see happening in the future with theme parks? Would we be able to talk to other characters such as Donald Duck and Goofy soon?

Personalised Technology

There is no doubt that smartphones and tablets have changed the way we communicate and see the world as a whole. With the click of a button, our friends can see where we are at this very moment. We can upload videos and photos for everyone to see seconds after we have taken them. We can even book our tickets and make reservations without even having to talk to anyone.

Social networking and mobile apps have, almost by accident, gone hand in hand with travelling and holidays as people enjoy sharing their experiences for everyone to see. It’s easy to find point of view videos of rollercoasters posted on Facebook and YouTube along with personalised Flickr accounts full of photos from die hard Disney fans.

However, there is one aspect of mobile technology which is becoming more and more relevant. Augmented reality is beginning to be a big part in people’s lives and theme parks are starting to take notice. Once again, Walt Disney World is the first park to experiment with this.

‘Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom’ uses state of the art technology which encourages visitors to play a role playing game throughout the park at certain portals. The idea is to save the Magic Kingdom from the Disney villains such as Cruella de Vil and Scar who were recruited by Hades from Hercules. Players become apprentices to Merlin from The Sword in the Stone in an effort to stop the villains stealing pieces of a shattered crystal ball.

It’s a hybrid game of a treasure hunt and interactive trading cards which create an immersive experience. It’s a novel take on including guests in on the action and makes them feel like they are part of the magic as they hold up their cards to a magic mirror and see it animate according to their commands.

This idea has so much potential as parks could incorporate Q codes and mobile camera apps to create an immersive experience which encourages guests to explore and take part. This is certainly something that will become a popular feature over the next few years.

What Will Parks Be Like In Another 20 Years?

When predicting what theme parks will be like in the future I always look to see how the big competitors are doing in Orlando. As the worldwide playground for attractions and rides, it’s the one place we can look to for future trends to be emulated by other smaller parks around the globe.

4D experiences and interaction looks to be the next popular step as guests already enjoy 3D movies and even have their own 3D TVs complete with special glasses. Theme parks will aim to stay one step ahead of lifestyle technology as they try to offer new experiences that are inaccessible from home. 4D and 3D attractions now seem to be the cornerstone for most popular theme parks.

As this becomes more popular and common, each park will find unique ways of making these experiences stand out on their own. We could see greater variation and creativity with this kind of technology, following the examples set out by the larger parks such as Walt Disney World and Universal Studios. Perhaps we will even see rollercoasters using this 3D or 4D technology in an all new hybrid ride.

It’s obvious that the experiences from 20 years ago have changed greatly as theme parks encourage guests to take part for themselves. It’s certainly an exciting prospect to imagine what these experiences will be like in another 20 years.

Big Plans for International Drive

3 Mar

Exciting news guys, International Drive is set to get an observation wheel and a Madam Tussauds!

The Merlin Group announced on Wednesday that they are planning to build the 425 ft observation wheel (said to be called the Orlando Eye) and the wax museum near to the Orange County Convention Centre where the Mercado Shopping Center currently sits.

These attractions are part of a bigger project named ‘I-Walk’ which will include a new shopping complex, bars, restaurants and entertainment facilities.

I’ll keep you posted as and when I hear more!

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