Disney World has implemented some pretty crazy technological advances over the years.
Recently, they’ve started testing facial recognition in the parks and don’t even get us STARTED on the tech behind Rise of the Resistance. Well, we’ve noticed some hints at a NEW Disney project, and the inspiration might surprise you.
Disney’s looking into guest perceptions of (yep) Pokemon Go.
Disney sends surveys out to guests who have recently experienced the theme parks, Disney Springs, Disney Resort hotels, or other Disney World areas. Recently we caught one of these surveys that had an interesting question.
In a survey on March 11th, Disney was polling guests about their interest in virtual experiences including Teamlab Borderless, Camp, Meow Wolf, Boda Borg, and Pokemon Go.
So what are these experiences? Teamlab Borderless is a digital art museum in Tokyo…
…Camp is a retail media company that provides family activities…
…Meow Wolf is another immersive art exhibit company…
…BodaBorg is an international in-person “questing” experience (kind of similar to an Escape Room)…
…and Pokemon Go is an interactive, augmented reality game that’s hosted on your mobile phone.
Most of these offerings are international and you may not have heard of them, but Pokemon Go was a MAJOR craze that swept the nation when it first launched a few years ago. You can even look for Pokemon IN Disney World. That’s pretty neat.
The game is still around with a ranking of the #2 Most Popular Strategy Game on the Apple App Store and as an Editor’s Choice on the Google Play Store. If you’re still running around trying to find Pikachu or Charizard…you’re not alone!
Why could Disney be interested in Pokemon Go perceptions?
So why was Disney polling guests about Pokemon Go and these other experiences? Disney could be looking into a new way to gamify the theme parks. We’ve seen a LOT of augmented reality patents recently (more on those in a sec!) and it wouldn’t be the first time Disney has opted to gamify the parks.
So far, these games have all been interactive experiences using different elements IN the theme parks. For instance, Sorcerors of the Magic Kingdom used trading cards to trigger experiences in different lands opening up hidden “portals.” Similarly, Agent P’s triggered effects and animatronics in various parts of World Showcase as clues were found.
At this time, all of these experiences have been retired — except for the yet-to-debut DuckTales game. It’s certainly feasible that Disney is looking for new types of interactive experiences to replace them. Pokemon Go could be an inspiration for this.
What could an augmented reality Disney World game look like?
What stands out about Pokemon Go as a difference from the other Disney World gamification examples is that Pokemon Go uses augmented reality to place Pokemon characters in your real-life environment. Better yet, it JUST requires a user’s phone! Most of these previous offerings required a map, cards, interactive props to be built into the parks, or other physical elements needed for the experiences to work.
We’re seeing an expansion of mobile offerings from a planning perspective in Disney World (just take a look at the just-launched MagicMobile!), so could we see a similar expansion from a play perspective? Maybe!
Disney has used augmented reality for guest experiences before, however limited. Last year, guests who had just left Disney World received a “See ya real soon!” message from an AR Mickey Mouse.
At last year’s D23 summits, Imagineers spoke on the future of Augmented Reality in Disney parks and beyond. During a panel called Creating Fantastic Worlds: A Journey into Disney Worldbuilding, Imagineers noted that they are looking into AR and how it will change things through this new medium.
At the same summit, Disney Park’s Executive Vice President and Digital and Chief Technology Officer Talik Mandadi noted that AR is already in use for Cast Member training and some upcoming experiences such as Animal Kingdom’s Windows to the Wild.
Beyond that, we’ve seen a LOT of patents filed by Disney when it comes to improving the AR space. One Disney inventor’s job description notes, “His goal at Disney is to allow virtual characters to share physical space with our guests. His main research area at Disney Research is novel display technologies with particular emphasis on autostereoscopic displays and augmented reality environments.”
So, if Disney is doing so much work on the AR front AND polling guests about Pokemon Go, it’s certainly possible they’re considering AR-supplemented gamification of the theme parks.
What could this look like? Maybe it’s a similar model to Sorcerers of the Magic Kingdom but you bring your phone around so that you can see the villains standing right in front of you. Or perhaps it could help to add visual effects to the interactive experiences in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge!
Whatever the case, we’re pretty darn excited to see what Disney is working on when it comes to AR experiences, and, hopefully, we’ll get to experience more in the parks soon! As always, stay tuned to DFB for the latest updates!
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What do you think of this tech? Tell us in the comments!