New, more sophisticated virtual reality offerings like The Void’s Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire in the Disney Park-adjacent areas of Disney Springs and Downtown Disney have shown that there is certainly a market for VR attractions among theme park visitors, provided it’s designed well.
The downside to The Void’s VR attractions for theme parks themselves are that they rely on guests scheduling allotments of time so that they may wander freely over the course of the story, which might take some players a little longer than others, and guidance can be needed to keep confused players on track. How would a company translate the free-roaming immersive virtual reality experience into an attraction at a theme park, where lines need to proceed at a steady pace and guests would need to be directed to stay on track?
In a patent application published this week titled “Systems and Methods for Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality Path Management,” Universal City Studios, LLC has outlined a new system that would add some more traditional theme park ride elements to the idea of a walk-through virtual reality attraction.
By combining virtual reality environments with a track-based ride system, Universal could keep guests moving and in position while still giving them the free-roaming feeling of walking on their own. To do this, the resort could connect VR headsets and harnesses to tracks above them, keeping them linked to the proper flow of the attraction.
As the experience progresses, a tether would move the harness along the preset track while the guest walks. Once the guests is in the correct area or scene the tether could lock in place, only allowing for movement in a singular area and keeping the guest from wandering too far ahead or back the way they came. This would also give Universal the ability to decide if an environment’s boundaries are physical, such as a wall, or defined by the length of the tether. Users could be prevented from accidentally bumping into each other by progressing individually through successive zones, with their tether locked to the track until the next zone is empty of other guests.
As must always be stated, the existence of an application doesn’t guarantee a patent’s approval, and an approved patent doesn’t guarantee that its associated technology will be used. Universal has applied for numerous ride-system patents, many of which include VR components, but we’ll have to wait and see which ones end up in the parks.
Source/Images: United States Patent and Trademark Office