The new Ralph Breaks VR attraction debuted at Disney Springs.
THE WALT DISNEY CO.
Virtual and augmented reality are drawing the attention of the theme park industry’s creative minds.
The latest example comes via a patent filed by Burbank, California-based The Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) that enhances a guest's ability to use virtual/augmented reality — known as AR and VR — to become various Disney characters. The patent, dubbed “Image customization using a persona,” appears to find another layer to the overall mission to bring VR and AR to a wider audience.
The patent looks at how virtual or augmented reality could be used to give users a character to use in an experience, as well as the ability to use a prop that appears like a sword, whip or other object.
WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANIZATION
Disney executives were unavailable for comment, but the patent filing shows that the company’s inventors are following the development and potential uses of VR and AR in all settings, including theme parks. There’s no guarantee this technology will find its way into a theme park. Nevertheless, Disney often introduces technology it finds successful in one segment of its business into others.
Here are some examples of how the technology may be used, according to the patent:
- The persona may include a virtual character that augments what the user sees in a customized image. The user may appear to "wear" the virtual character like a costume, or the virtual character may be substituted for the user in a customized image.
- Indoor venues may be displayed, such as a cinema, theater or concert hall. Others may show outdoor venues, like a theme park or resort property.
- A user may be able to select one or more accessories for his or her persona from menu, including clothing, colors for enhancing the user's appearance and/or weapons perhaps from within a submenu that shows options such as whip, ray gun or sword.
Of course, Disney already has theme park experiences that closely resemble what the patent describes. For example, The Void attraction in Disney Springs allows guests to take on the personas of spies and go through immersive environments in the Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire experience. The Void also offers Ralph Breaks VR, where you enter the internet and experience it with Wreck-It Ralph and Vanellope.
The increased use of VR and AR in theme park settings makes sense, as attractions constantly adapt with new uses or storytelling methods. Digital technology allows new experiences to be crafted using similar buildings or structures — essentially maximizing flexibility of attraction design and lowering costs. New iterations or upgrades to shows and attractions also build buzz for potential tourists and can result in more visitation. That generates more economic impact and helps create more jobs.
Walt Disney World welcomed more than 58.2 million people last year through the turnstiles at its local theme parks — Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom, Epcot and Hollywood Studios — which accounts for 70% of the region's market share of visitors going to Disney, Comcast Corp.'s (Nasdaq: CMCSA) Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld Orlando (NYSE: SEAS) theme parks.