Amid growing speculation on Universal Orlando’s new property and questions about when an additional theme park will be added, the company has recently applied for patents that describe a number of ride systems that may wind up as future Universal attractions.
Five patent applications have been submitted in the last two weeks which cover immersive theater experiences, ride harnesses, and new motion simulator attractions that create the feeling of flying, flipping, or motorcycle/horseback riding.
Published today, “Dome Theater Ride System and Method” intends to ramp up the immersion in theme park theater-based attractions.
Park-goers in the past have seen attractions which promise a new theater experience, but simply add vibrating chairs or other minor effects to standard cinema seats. A prime example of this from Universal’s own parks would be Shrek 4-D in Universal Studios Florida. This new ride technology would be a drastic change, having the audiences board a ride vehicle which is inserted inside a fully enclosed dome.
While the attraction’s image content is displayed on the inside walls for viewers to see, the dome itself — and the ride vehicle attached to it — would be able to move in multiple directions along with the video. In some interpretation of this technology the seats may also have some movement capability inside the dome. As the audience would be seated on the inside of a sphere, those closest to the center would feel less motion than guests sitting on the sides due to centripetal force.
Also published today, “Passenger Restraint with Integrated Lighting” aims to streamline the boarding process by adding lights to indicate whether ride harnesses are properly locked.
This system would conceivably cut down on the time Universal employees take to visually and manually confirm that a guest’s restraints are locked in place, thereby keeping the ride, and lines, moving.
The first in a trio of motion simulation ride systems published last week, “Motion Simulation Amusement Park Attraction” describes a ride configuration that would give guests the feeling of flying or gliding.
To properly convey the sensation of flying through the air, the guests would first be placed into a support system which could move on its axis until they were horizontal. The riders would then be lifted over the attraction screen which could display a number of environments. They would have the ability to look straight ahead, to either directions, and most importantly for flying, downward. The suspension system would give riders an increased feeling of freedom as their whole body would experience the flight sensations, not just the parts sticking out of a ride vehicle.
“Annular Motion Simulation Amusement Park Attraction” relates to a ride vehicle shaped like a ring which the passenger would sit in. If you’re wondering what benefits this might have, the patent explains:
Movement of the passenger support system, and thus, the passenger, within the annular structure, causes the sensation of airflow around the passenger’s body (e.g., arms and legs) and may allow the passenger a heightened amusement ride experience. Additionally, relatively minor movement of the passenger support system may create additional forces on the rider’s body due, in part, to the distribution of gravitational forces. The combination of physical effects such as airflow and g-forces, along with visual effects such as a visual effect device, screen, or facade may provide the passenger with an immersive amusement ride experience.
So that passengers aren’t just looking at the front of their vehicle for the entire trip, in some versions headsets would be worn to provide visual immersion in the form of virtual or augmented reality. Other versions include immersive 360-degree wraparound screens.
These rings could be used by themselves or in groups, depending on which ride style they are combined with. Since the goal is better motion simulation, the vehicles could be implemented along with a vast array of tracks or suspension systems.
Just as the previous two systems were meant to simulate flying or flipping, “Seated Motion Simulation Amusement Park Attraction” intends to simulate the feeling of riding.
When on an animal or motorcycle, a rider’s attention is typically forward or downward; Universal states that current ride simulators don’t provide enough immersion on this front due to display screen positioning. Their solution is to place riders on top of a screen by suspending them from above, which would not only provide visual benefits but additional realistic motion sensations. The applications explains,
By positioning the rider in a facedown position or on a vehicle that, at least in some orientations, permits a downward gaze, the rider may experience a sensation and feeling of horseback riding, motorcycling, or the like. Additionally, the disclosed rider support assembly may allow the rider to experience sudden moments of positive and negative gravitational forces (e.g., g-forces) that enhance the sensation of riding or motorcycling, and provide a more pleasurable riding experience.
This system can be implemented with several different display screen methods and, as with almost all ride systems being developed now, has the option of including a virtual or augmented reality headset as well.
As must always be noted when concerning new technology: The existence of an application does not guarantee a patent’s approval, and the existence of an approved patent does not guarantee the associated technology will ever be implemented.
These new ride systems do have quite a bit of crossover though, and it would not be surprising to see one or many of these make their way into Universal parks in the near future.
Source/Images: United States Patent and Trademark Office