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How Technology Is Transforming Visitor Attractions in 2022

Innovation – a fairly ubiquitous word in Location Based Entertainment (LBE), would you agree? As an industry we are always looking for that new thing, the next version of something (has anyone been keeping track with the “patent wars”?) – we even chase for “World’s Firsts” with an incessant drive that would make even Emperor Palpatine proud. But innovation comes in many forms both big AND small. In my personal opinion, the best innovations are the ones guests will immediately take for granted; the kinds of things we wonder why we are only just experiencing an innovation now?

When developing innovations, we take cues from everything around us: products/ideas from within our world, even things that the natural world does really well too. Combine that with a healthy dose of design thinking, and something seemingly small can become something truly big and great – ‘next level’, you might say. This industry generally does this incredibly well, taking ideas from our consumer world and turning them into something robust for ours. So where will we get the next inspiration from? Well this is what we will start to explore here, and, with any luck this might provide a spark for the next innovations too?!

Before we get into it though, I want to share a statement from a blog posted in October 2021 by the World Economic Forum by McKinsey & Co (link here if anyone is interested). “We’ll experience more technological progress in the coming decade than we did in the preceding 100 years put together, says McKinsey”

Completely brushing the pandemic to one side for a moment, what a time to be alive! Hopefully this puts into perspective how much innovation is happening all around us, are we ready to keep up?

A STARTER FOR 10 (WELL… 5)

I want to start by highlighting a few examples of innovation to further set the tone. These examples all involve ideas or technology that are synonymous outside of our industry but have been used in ways that are definitively ours:

Museum of Ice Cream

Museum of Ice Cream (MOIC) and taking the ‘sharable moment’ to the next level – an example of an experience truly worthy of the ‘insta-generation’. Most attractions/experiences only scratch at the surface whereas MOIC is an experience made up of almost entirely shareable moments. MOIC also opened many eyes on what an attraction ‘experience’ could be.

Dreamcraft Attractions Dreamset™

Dreamcraft Attractions Dreamset™ VR product and the next level resolution to elephant-in-the-room operational problems for high-volume requirements, including a patent to boot! 

Nintendo World

Universal Studios Japan with Nintendo World, taking gamification of physical + digital to the next level with the entire land.

Disney’s Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge

Disney’s Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge and taking their existing RFID technology to the next level with cause and effect storytelling and actions. A very recent one also worth noting, December 28th 2021, Disney has had a patent granted for 3D/VR called “Virtual World SImulator” without the need for wearable technology, utilising high speed projectors and SLAM (Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping) tracking technology. Truly next level potential.

Some of the main tech trends and ideas/trends of the last 5-10 years (even longer) underpin these examples, they are constantly innovating and evolving; and that next evolution will surely be utilised on the next generation of LBE attractions.

So let’s look ahead at what could inspire these innovations.

THE ZEITGEIST OF THE METAVERSE(S)

We may as well dive straight into this one right? It’s the term of the moment… (but if you want to learn more Wired have a great article here). Irrespective of any feelings towards this but with the company formerly known as Facebook Inc. now being called Meta is a clear, if not the clearest indicator of the potential power of the metaverse thinking.

For LBE though, we have all been touching on very similar themes of late, and especially in blog posts: interconnected experiences and deeper storytelling immersion inclusive of things like player agency, cause/effect and gamification. The metaverse is really a way of connecting or realising that.

Talking holistically for a moment, as this is fast becoming more popular; brands which you would never think of wanting to create a metaverse are jumping in. This surely is a world of possibilities! A great example of this to me is the Amazon Grocery Store. What might seem like a natural diversification is to me a great example of creating their own metaverse.

Hear me out, as “meterverse” is the way we interact with technology (albeit being pulled away from a digital world in a stereotypical sense) – You are using your amazon account to do a multitude of things: stream videos, listen to music, buy A LOT of things, and now go to a physical store and do grocery shopping with. And this is just in principle, the tech behind this is even more awesome – its next level scan-and-go, you don’t even scan!  Brand loyalty building metaverse style – with automation and convenience to boot.

So who will we be creating this for next? What ideas will transfer to one another? This really is full of possibilities and I for one can’t wait to see how interaction and immersion with brands evolves. 

FUTURE OF FINANCE THAT IS ALREADY HERE

I’m not going to get technical here or really get into this – being honest, there are some aspects for these I have not fully wrapped my own head around still and I’m not going to pretend like I have either. However there are innovations and possibilities for LBE, some already happening.

Portaventura’s Hotels for example as of the start of their 2022 season will be able to use Bitcoin. Regardless of the feelings towards cryptocurrencies, it is a great example that LBE is innovating within this space. 

Could there be a new version of the Disney Dollar, and evolution perhaps in the future?

Following on from this is Blockchain. Now, if you want to read up on it, IBM has a great resource on here. What I like about blockchain is that there is something to be gained from the way the trust architecture works within it: fundamentally allowing for better cybersecurity at less cost and greater efficiency. For us and the future with interconnectivity of linked platforms (metaverse!), makes for more secure attractions; which we can all agree is incredibly important as cyber crime continues to become more sophisticated as well.

The third thing I want to talk about here is Non-Fungible Tokens (NFTs). Again, if you want to read up on them, The Verge has a great article you can read here

Another caveat here is that this is a contentious topic and there are some very vocal opinions surrounding this, but it’s still in a relative infancy to the wider-world. There are some great examples and some really confusing examples in the world of NFTs, and there always will be. But I think there is some good potential – a new way to experience a world first perhaps through NFT-style tickets, by being the world’s first? Next level VIP?

LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD

To me, products = possibilities. Stating the somewhat obvious: as tech is developed and used, eventually it becomes cheaper to produce, and more widely used to the point of becoming a daily part of our lives. Take that into the LBE space and they can have great impacts on guest experiences.

I do want to stress here though this is by no means a prediction from myself, but these are potential developing trends in the product world which the technology could easily be ported over to the LBE space, and open up some serious possibilities in the future, to which caught my eye. There are many more out there I’m sure.

Levitating light bulbs

Yes you read that right. This might seem silly but I really like this idea. Levitating speakers have been around for 5+ years now at least, elevating this to lights seems natural progression. As this tech develops though, I can see this being used for sci-fi/fantasy ideas for lighting/magic (maybe will o’wisps?). This could bring to life extra attention to details that guests might really appreciate. 

Electronic Sensor Pens

These devices have been developing over the last few years in a good way. Devices are getting more sophisticated, better connection, better ability at the data capture aspect for note taking etc.

However I think as these devices develop further, you could do some really great interactive pieces with them (remember the Home Alone spy pen anyone?). Take an escape room for example, you could split players up and mark puzzles from one room directed at the other players to input in another – et al, Crystal Maze. Or if sophistication goes even further, in a larger immersive environment, coded messages for the Rebel Alliance or your favorite D&D guild. Or, if any of that doesn’t interest you, you will still have a great note taking pen…

Earphone Translation Tools

Translation tools have seemed fairly quiet in my opinion of late. When you take an objective look at things like Google translate too – there is still so much room for improvement. Also, especially in the written sense, language translation is a skilled job for things like manual production translations, so I am mindful of what I am getting at here. 

Take for example Waverly Lab’s Ambassador wearable translation headphones. This product has some great features with multiple simultaneous users in a conversation, 20 languages equating to 42 different dialects currently.

Look at the potential. As this technology can develop, could we add something like an alien language (a prime example of storytelling is from The Book of Boba Fett on Disney+ – the mayor of Mos Espa uses a tool to converse with Boba Fett in a scene), or if we are bringing to life D&D: what would conversing in Abyssal or Deep Speech really sound like? At a more grounded level, multilingual speech shows/stories could be more authentic in approach. 

Could this change and improve operations? We could converse in multiple languages with guests, reduce multiple signage needs, and streamline entire experiences.

Simple internet-connected Button (SiB)

Another area LBE is no stranger to is interactive elements and devices. If you follow this thread with me, the SiB stands out to me as it feels like an evolution to further open up possibilities. A button that is programmable which can connect to an array of devices and sensors which allows it to perform a huge array of functions. To me if you include this somewhat with all of the above, combined with an interconnected attraction platform, we are not far off creating something like Fallout’s PipBoy. I’m sure the really technical-minded readers may question some of the tech here, but as the title says – inspiration. It is the potential I am really excited by: complex designed/themed wearable or mobile access devices to the attraction’s platform or guest experiences seem more achievable now – miniaturised, mobile and ability to be more digitally complex, set fully within a themed environment seems fully next level to me. 

Key-X

I wanted to end on the Key-X as this is such a great device. Key-X is a keyboard designed for people with motor, physical or intellectual disabilities and gives the user greater accessibility to input on computers and technology devices. How great is that?! It provides autonomy to people who would otherwise potentially struggle. 

Thinking of LBE possibilities, I can see this having an impact in admin/operations to give back more autonomy to guests. But think about the creative possibilities for a moment too. The setup of the device could be programmed and themed like something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Set a puzzle on it – now you have a super inclusive interactive element which to me speaks for itself on how great that could be.

Key takeaways

A couple of key takeaways I hope is that firstly, these innovations only work if they are integrated correctly for the experience. To put really simply: it’s not the tech, it’s how we use it. The other is that the best examples of those are the ones guests won’t even notice, making immersion seamless with the experience.

Do you want to take your visitor attraction to the next level? Contact the team or speak to me directly on LinkedIn for details on how we can help you.

Adam
Booth

Adam is Project Producer at Katapult. Whether it is cutting edge technology projects (AGV/SDVs), developing theme parks, attractions + guest experience projects, VR/AR/XR, digital media + interactive gaming projects; through to sets, shows and actor-driven productions, all the way through to adventure tourism and rural diversification projects. Whatever the project, I am here to help make it a reality.