New technologies are transforming theme park attractions and the guest experience. New forms of interactivity, real-time media and virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) are taking guests to places they have never been before. When combined with exciting, narrative-driven storytelling, compelling IP and effective personalisation, experiences can deliver new levels of engagement and immersion.
At Holovis, this is all part of the Total Attractions offering. By adding guest personalisation, new engagement formats, gamification techniques and back-end database connectivity, a completely new kind of product offering becomes possible. No longer are attractions standalone three-minute events with long waiting times, but they’re part of a park-wide, interconnected ecosystem, giving guests completely new ways to plan their visit, more intensive engagement during their visit and the ability to share the experiences and memories afterwards.
Holovis calls it the Extended Experience (EE). Based around the guest’s own smart phone or tablet and a dedicated downloadable app, EE unlocks a rich, interactive park-enabled environment where Holovis’s own proprietary Augmented Mixed Reality technology gives the guest a variety of opportunities to enhance their visit.
“Augmented reality is aptly named – it’s about transforming the ordinary into something extraordinary, making magic out of the mundane,” says Stuart Hetherington, CEO of Holovis. “There’s something exhilarating about watching the real world come to life through a layer of AR magic.”
EE has been developed partly in response to changing park usage patterns and the need to increase repeat visits. Parks simply have to deliver more bangs per buck. But how do we deliver this most effectively?
“As experience designers, we need to effectively use the available tools and the smart phone/tablet is a fantastic device to work with —they’re slim, powerful, with an expanding sensor array, everyone has one and most regularly upgrade,” he says.
From the moment they download an app, guests can start engaging with the theme park, earning points ahead of their visit and answering cleverly hidden questions about their interests. All of this can be used to personalise the experience when they arrive at the attraction.
The game play continues during the visit, with more hidden AR “treasure” to find around a site, again leading to extra points and incentives which could mean queue jumps or the ability to trigger something magical nearby, such as a water explosion from a cannon overlooking the queue line by pressing the virtual button that appears.
“Once users are in the attraction space, the app draws upon a variety of sensors to blend the physical and virtual worlds, using the phone’s camera to recognise key elements in the park and overlay digital media to create epic videos for sharing on social media,” says Hetherington.
“This is an excellent way of eliminating queue boredom, as people are engrossed in the game. It’s another layer of entertainment, turning a passive activity into a participative experience. It can also benefit the whole park ecosystem by driving footfall to all areas.”
Brand merchandise can be given a whole new lease of life, with AR characters jumping from T-shirts or specially created pin badges and merchandise. This encourages people to keep using the app outside of the park, showing friends, sharing on social media and wanting to collect them all.
“The next step for Extended Experiences is to synch them with the content people are experiencing during media- and motion-based dark rides. Combine with real-time media, and when a group of guests ride an attraction, the content can be personalised to them based on demographics, interests or even skill level. With other innovations to come, the future of EE is very exciting.”