26 May 2022 Attractions Management Handbook

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Attractions Management Handbook - The Future is now


The Future is now

A round up of innovative technologies installed at attractions across the globe

Augmented reality

GOOGLE tangos
Detroit Institute of Arts

Google’s AR platform Tango made its attractions debut at the Detroit Institute of Arts in Michigan, USA, in 2017.

At the museum’s front desk, visitors are offered a Lenovo Phab 2 Pro: the first Tango-enabled smartphone. The handset and AR contain more in-depth information about some of the artefacts showcased at the institute. For example, Tango reveals the inside of a mummified body, visualises lost architecture and displays limestone works with their original colours. It will also feature quizzes.

Following its initial run in Detroit, the technology will be rolled out to numerous yet-to-be-named museums, enhancing the interactive experience worldwide.

“Still, display signs and audio guides can only convey so much at museums,” says Justin Quimby, senior product manager for Tango. “We want visitors to explore museums in a different way. This is just the beginning of how you’ll be able to use Tango in museums to see more, hear more and learn more.”
Tango was developed by app developer GuidiGo, creator of AR museum guides for the shelved Google Glass project.


Visitors can learn about the institute’s artefacts via the Tango-enabled smartphone

Augmented reality
Forestry Commission


Sam Southward

The UK’s Forestry Commission recently launched an AR app based on the popular children’s picture book, The Gruffalo, to encourage more families to explore natural British habitats.

Developed in partnership with Nexus Studios and Magic Light Pictures, the Gruffalo Spotter app uses clues to guide visitors to special “footprint markers” on an interactive trail. Each footprint activates an augmented version of the story’s characters, bringing them to life in a short animation. Educational content is written into each story, including facts about woodland creatures and the environment.

According to Sam Southward, director at Nexus Studios, the app is breaking ground in its use of “life-sized” creatures.

“One of the exciting things about The Gruffalo Spotter is the way in which we’ve scaled up the AR technology to create close to life-sized characters in a real world location,” he said.

“Up until this point, the majority of AR has been a smaller and more controlled experience, but for this project we really wanted to see how much we could push it.”

"We’ve scaled up the AR to create close to life-sized characters in a real world location" Sam Southward


The app gives clues to guide visitors to “footprint markers” on an interactive trail
Augmented reality

digital forest art
National Museum of Singapore

At the National Museum in Singapore, AR is pivotal to a massive digital exhibit that transforms 69 drawings into a single, giant, animated interactive illustration.

Using sensors inside a glass rotunda, the Story of the Forest installation by art collective teamLab enables visitors to interact with the region’s flora and fauna.

At the top of the three-storey exhibit, visitors enter a dark room where falling petals are projected across the ceiling, before walking down a 144-metre (472-foot) spiral path featuring laser-projected animals running through an intricately designed forest.

The forest animals can be “captured” via an app downloaded to a visitor’s smart device.

As visitors approach the final space, floor sensors trigger petals to fall from the ceiling and sprout from the floor into towering trees.


Visitors can interact with animals in the digital forest
Augmented reality

Space Park

Dynamic Attractions is partnering with Chinese space technology company Altair to build a space-themed amusement park in Hangzhou, China.

The technology-led attraction will include at least three cutting-edge AR attractions. Although the exact details of the rides are yet to be confirmed, Guy Nelson, CEO of Empire Industries (which owns Dynamic Attractions), said they’ll include movie- and theatre-based motion rides and possibly a planetarium-style experience.
“We don’t want to just slap Oculus goggles on people, we want to really push the envelope,” Nelson said.
“We’re planning three attractions in the AR space that we feel will transport people in both scale and volume to another world. The content will lend itself quite nicely to a MR and AR type of situation.”


© shutterstock/Sergey Nivens

Attractions get a “spaceover”
Augmented reality

Matiu-Somes Island

New Zealand film director Peter Jackson, famous for his big screen adaptation of the Lord of the Rings, is spearheading an augmented digital project on home soil. Well known for his eagerness to promote visitor experiences in New Zealand, Jackson wants to teach visitors about the first Maori inhabitants of Matiu-Somes Island in Wellington Harbour.

The experience will enable visitors to virtually explore the island using AR glasses featuring digital overlays and images. By using augmented storytelling, the history and daily lives of its Maori inhabitants will be told.

Dominic Sheehan, general manager of Jackson’s Wingnut Films Productions, said: “We are in the early stages of this journey together, but the idea potentially involves using various media, including digital storytelling and the latest in virtual and AR technology, to tell stories about the Maori history of Wellington,”

Jackson who has worked on several tourism ventures in New Zealand in the past, is seeking funding support through the Government’s Maori ICT Fund.


© shutterstock/Hartmut Albert

Augmented storytelling will help unfold the history of the island’s first residents

Alive and kicking
Design Museum


Madeline Gannon

As part of its special exhibition on “issues that define our time”, the Design Museum gave visitors the opportunity to come into contact with a sentient robot.

Having created customised software, US-based multidisciplinary designer Madeline Gannon transformed a 1,200kg industrial robot into a living, breathing mechanical creature named Mimus, which seems curious about the world around it.

Occupying a central role in the museum’s The Fear and Love – Reactions to a Complex World exhibition, Mimus can sense and respond to the presence of visitors as they near its enclosure. Gannon’s aim was to question people’s fears and anxieties surrounding artificial intelligence: “I wanted to show that robots could be a companion species. We might overcome our anxiety by establishing a bond with the machines.”

"I wanted to show that robots could be a companion species" Madeline Gannon


Mimus can respond to human presence

Sally Corp

Sally Corp will use robots in its new Five Nights At Freddy’s attraction – a dark ride which promises to create a “real life version” of the horror game.

Designed to be a real-time, multiplayer version of the popular video game franchise, riders will act as security guards working the nightshift inside “Freddy Fazbear’s Pizza”. Their mission is to defend themselves from malfunctioning animatronic robots roaming the building. By shining a flashlight, the robots are scared away.

Drew Hunter, vp of design at Sally, said there’d been “a lot of excited interest” over the concept, which is currently under development.


Riders will use flashlights to defend themselves against animatronic robots

Forbidden Journeys

Located in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Hollywood, Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has been touted as one of the planet’s most immersive media-based rides.
Experienced in 4K-HD, its audiovisual content is projected at 120fps for a super high-definition, hyper-real experience.

Technological innovation extends to the mechanics of the ride. Using robotic arm technology, guests can physically feel the thrill of flying on broomsticks with Harry Potter and his friends while playing Quidditch and encountering a dragon.

Seats are mounted on robotic arms (a RoboCoaster G2 ride system created in partnership by Dynamic Structures, KUKA and RoboCoaster), while the arms are on rails to spiral and pivot riders 360-degrees on an elevated ride track.


Robotic arm technology conveys the feeling of flying on a broomstick with Potter


The Jurassica project, a dinosaur attraction planned inside a semi-subterranean artificial cavern in a 40m (132ft) deep quarry in Portland, UK, will look to use robotics in a number of its attractions and exhibits.

Perhaps the most innovative will be an aquarium with a swimming, life-size, animatronic plesiosaurus. Engineering and design firm Arup is involved in the project, along with business management consultancy Oliver Wyman and exhibit designers David Lazenby and Azureus Design.

The subterranean geological park is the brainchild of Michael Hanlon, who died from a heart attack in 2016.

Following his death, the project’s board, backed by Sir Tim Smit and Sir David Attenborough, made a unanimous decision to press forward, promising to bring to life Hanlon’s “thrilling vision” for the prehistoric attraction on England’s Jurassic Coast.


A life-size animatronic plesiosaurus will bring the Jurassic attraction to life

Victoria & Albert Museum


Achim Menges

Rather than exhibit robots at London’s V&A, they were put to work!

Robots independently built the museum’s outdoor Elytra Filament Pavilion over a six-month period by responding to real-time sensory data on the pavilion’s structural behaviour – and the patterns of inhabitation in the garden.

The advanced robotic technology, combined with biomimicry, has resulted in a lightweight but strong structure formed from tightly-woven carbon fibre cells.

Created by experimental architects Achim Menges and Moritz Dörstelmann in collaboration with engineers Jan Knippers and Thomas Auer and researchers from the University of Stuttgart, the design concept was inspired by the shells of flying Elytra beetles.

Achim Menges said: “We aim to offer a glimpse of the transformative power of the fourth industrial revolution currently underway, and the way it again challenges established modes of design, engineering and making.”

"We aim to offer a glimpse of the transformative power of the fourth industrial revolution destinations" Achim Menges


Robotic technology, combined with biomimicry, has resulted in a lightweight but strong pavilion structure

Puy du Fou


Nicolas de Villiers

An ‘intelligent’ drone fleet at Puy du Fou in Les Epesses, France, has added a certain “Je ne sais quoi” to its Cinéscénie show – one of the largest night shows worldwide.

Puy du Fou’s artistic team joined forces with lighting designer Koert Vermeulen (founder of ACT Lighting Design) to create an outdoor drone fleet able to synchronise with music, video and lights.

Called Neopters, the drones are embedded with ‘intelligence’, feature GPS technology and can fly in wind and rain. They can take off from and land on water, in addition to 3kg carrying loads.

Work on the Neopter project took 50 engineers two years to design, involved four patents and required a €2m (US$2.3m, £1.8m) investment to complete.

Nicolas de Villiers, president of Puy du Fou, said: “This will be the first project to use this many drones and it’s been very complex. That’s why we created our own drones.

“They fly automatically and have their own ‘brain’ so they can make decisions and leave the choreography and go ‘home’ if their motor or battery is not working well.

“We’re seeing drone technology become increasingly prominent outside its military origins, and by exploring the new opportunities opened up by the Neopters, we’re excited to be pioneering a new way in the world of entertainment.”

"We’re excited to be pioneering a new way in the world of entertainment" Nicolas de Villiers


Drones “float” candles above the show

Sydney Zoo

Opening in 2018, Sydney Zoo in NSW, Australia, is set to become a high-tech experience for both guests and animals.

Ideas being explored in collaboration with Western Sydney University (WSU) include how best to combine animal conservation with technology and immersive displays, including the use of drones in animal feeding and enclosure maintenance.

“Using drones for feeding or cleaning could limit the amount of disruptive human interaction,”  explains Don Wright, senior manager of WSU.

He added that other possible innovations for the visitor journey include augmented reality displays and holograms to enhance and enliven the information available to guests.


Drones could be used to feed zoo animals

High-tech approach for zoo conservation

Dubai Museum of the Future


Saif Al Aleeli

The foundation behind the development of the forthcoming Dubai Museum of the Future is also a key partner in a UAE initiative dubbed Drones for Good.

Launched to explore humanitarian uses for drones, US$1m (€867,000m, £767,000) is to be awarded to a different company each year deemed to be developing drones for “good uses”.

Saif Al Aleeli, CEO of Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation, said: “Our partnership with the UAE Drones for Good Award is a new step in Dubai Museum of the Future Foundation’s strategy to highlight the most prominent innovations in the field of drones technologies to serve humanity”.

The foundation has intimated that drones will also have a role to play in the museum’s operations when it opens in 2020, in time for the Dubai Expo.

"Our partnership with the UAE Drones for Good Award is a new step" Saif Al Aleeli


The foundation will use drones at the museum and fund technology serving humanity

Walt Disney Parks & Resorts

Patents filed by Walt Disney reveal plans to use drones to fill the sky with a giant screen and bring marionettes to life.

Three patents suggest that larger-than-life puppets could be mounted with rods to fly through the air, bringing characters to life with greater control than previous airborne marionettes simply filled with hot air.

Disney has also published a video which shows a drone-powered light show at Disney Springs complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. A 10-second teaser shows a Christmas tree, a giant bird and famous Disney characters seemingly formed out of stars, with drone technology creating “pictures” in the night sky.

According to the Disney patent, drones will be used anywhere “where it is desirable to provide an aerial display”. Touted examples include presentations at lagoons and open spaces to entertain visitors.


Drones create a giant bird seemingly formed out of stars
Mixed reality

Six Flags

The Galactic Attack Virtual Reality Coaster, launched in July 2017 at Six Flags New England, USA, has been billed as the “world’s first mixed reality coaster”.

Added onto the park’s iconic Mind Eraser coaster, the new fully immersive, virtual riding experience challenges riders to defend the planet against an alien invasion.

Riders don a Samsung Gear VR headset displaying their weaponry status, time codes, fuel cells and a countdown clock, while a pass-through camera function presents a mixture of “real world” view and virtual content. For example, travelling up the lift hill displays a huge swirling wormhole.

Footage is also timed with the drops, twists, turns and inversions. As riders drop at high speeds, the MR view changes to a completely immersive VR environment.


“World’s first MR coaster”

Mixed reality
L.I.V.E Centre


Tony Christopher

Led by former Disney creative designer Tony Christopher, the Landmark Entertainment Group (design team behind Universal’s Kongfrontation, and Terminator 2 3D) is creating a chain of mixed reality destinations.

The L.I.V.E. Centre (Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience) will offer a mixed reality entertainment destination fusing art, culture and retail with virtual reality, augmented reality and themed architecture and design.

The first L.I.V.E. Centre is expected to break ground in China, with financial backing from a consortium of Chinese investors.

“The majority of what exists in the virtual reality market today is short-form content, whereas our goal is to work with brands to create long-form virtual reality entertainment destinations,” Christopher says. “What we’re creating is the equivalent of taking your family to a theme park for a day, and enjoying that experience so much that you want to repeat it over and over again – the only difference is that the experience will happen in the virtual world.”

"Our goal is to work with brands to create long-form VR entertainment destinations" Tony Christopher


The Landmark Interactive Virtual Experience Centre will debut in China

Mixed reality
SeaWorld Orlando


Joel Manby

SeaWorld Entertainment is retrofitting the Kraken rollercoaster at its Orlando park with a virtual reality experience to create a new mixed reality ride.

Riders will now have the option of donning VR headsets to give them the sensation of travelling through the sea amid “mythical and prehistoric creatures”.

According to SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby, the company is also looking to use VR in an even more innovative way – by incorporating the company’s live animals.

“We’re also looking at a version of virtual reality for our animals, where you actually see them live and things that you can’t possibly see as a human today – experiences that you can’t have except through virtual reality,” explains Manby.

The new VR attractions are part of a larger US$175m (€156m, £135m) investment in new attractions, as the operator looks to reposition itself as a theme park with sound animal conservation credentials and a mix of activities to offer.

"We’re also looking at a version of virtual reality for
our animals" Joel Manby


Riders on Kraken can now wear headsets for a mixed reality experience
Mixed reality

Thorpe Park

Merlin Entertainments created a “new deeper, darker, more intense journey” for its Ghost Train ride at Thorpe Park, UK.

The ride, which first opened in 2016, was built to allow the introduction of new journeys over time, meaning it can be continually tweaked and updated to offer new guest experiences.

For 2017, Merlin’s creative team worked with illusionist Derren Brown to “reimagine the ghost train concept for the 21st Century”. Renamed Derren Brown’s Ghost Train: Rise of the Demon, the ride now combines grand illusion, live action, virtual reality, special effects and physical movement to create an all-new experience.

“We used the ride’s debut year to learn about the attraction’s operations, identifying how to heighten the realism of the VR experience via leveraging the behaviour of guests on the ride,” says Thorpe Park’s divisional director, Dominic Jones.

As the ride was already installed at the theme park, new footage was shot onboard during the off-season, with footage live-streamed to a VR headset, allowing the director and producers to monitor performances from outside the train.


MR creates a more ghostly experience
Virual reality

Knott’s Berry Farm

Knott’s Berry Farm in California, USA, is the first major theme park to house a permanent free roaming virtual reality full motion attraction: VR Showdown In Ghost Town.

Created in partnership with tech specialist VRstudios, the new time travel adventure experience transports players to a futuristic version of the Californian town Calico. Equipped with guns and VR headsets, which can be used within a virtual space, groups of players must defend the town from robotic enemies.

“By using a free-roaming system, we can take full advantage of the capabilities of VR and let our guests be the stars of the show. A majority of people have not yet experienced VR, and we anticipate there’ll be a lot of interest from guests to have their first taste at our park,” says Christian Dieckmann, vice president at Cedar Fair, which owns Knott’s Berry Farm.


Players wearing VR headsets must defend their home town from robotic enemies
Vrtual reality

Tick Tock Unlock

The UK’s first multiplayer, standalone virtual reality game centre opened in Leeds, north England, UK, in 2017.

Launched by immersive attractions specialist Tick Tock Unlock, the centre offers an eight-person, multisensory, 15-minute VR experience within a 664sq ft (62sq m) game space where players can freely move around and interact with the story and other players. The experience also includes real-world sets, dummy props and special effects to stimulate the senses.

“Our Hyper Reality Experience centres will provide a new form of entertainment that is part video game, part virtual reality, part real-world, part theatrical production,” says Tick Tock Unlock director and former JP Morgan executive, Ali Khan.

“The centres allow players to experience a free-roaming, live action challenge which has to be physically completed but which takes place in the playground of a virtual world.”

A further nine centres will open across the country by 2019.


A 15-minute eight-player experience
Virtual reality

Madame Tussauds

Merlin Entertainments has teamed up with next-gen virtual reality gaming specialist The Void to create a Ghostbusters Experience at Madame Tussauds in New York. It’s the first public display of The Void’s VR capabilities.

Visitors strap on a proton pack to become ghostbusters within a multisensory, all-immersive VR environment incorporating real-time effects and highly immersive theming, such as authentic props, costumes, a vehicle and gadgets, to explore scenes from Ghostbusters. n


Players wearing proton packs and headsets take on the role of ghostbusters
Vrtual reality

Zero Latency

Australian VR start-up Zero Latency has signed a deal with US-based operator MindTrek to open the largest multiplayer free-roam VR game arenas in the USA.

Up to 4,000sq ft (370sq m) in size, the arenas will be located in Boston (2017) and Philadelphia (2018).

Zero Latency’s patent-pending motion tracking system enables teams of players wearing portable VR gear to participate simultaneously in immersive cooperative game experiences.

The technology allows up to six players to freely explore themed and “hyper-realistic” game environments, with plans to increase this to eight players.


Teams play simultaneously in cooperative game experiences

Originally published in Attractions Handbook 2017 edition

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