from Theme Park Insider…
By Amanda Kondolojy, Friday, August 19, 2016 04:53
While we might not have all the details yet, we know that Disney’s overall goal with Star Wars Land (both at Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios) is to create the most immersive land ever for a Disney Park. Similar to what Universal did with its own Wizarding Worlds of Harry Potter, Disney is aiming to transport guests to a galaxy far far away where Aurebesh is the written language, different species can be found everywhere, and the force is a way of life.
Now while we know that Disney will be training Cast Members to stay “in character” in this land, and there will be some unique food offerings inside Star Wars Land to keep with the theme, some new information has come to light recently that could bring a whole new level of immersion to Star Wars Land.
1. Disney patents “real” lightsaber technology, potentially for use inside theme parks
Recently, it was discovered that several months ago Disney filed a patent that will put “real” lightsabers in the hands of theme park guests that will allow them to interact with the world around them (at least inside Star Wars Land) to deflect laser blast effects.
According to PatentYogi (which first made this patent discovery a few days ago) Disney will accomplish this effect via an audience interaction projection system that will build upon the drone technology we first told you about last year. Essentially, special drones will fly over guests who are equipped with lightsabers that include LED lights capable of transmitting IR light towards the drones. When the drone’s IR sensor picks up the signal from the lightsaber, the unit will then project visible light through particulate matter in the air (water vapor, theatrical fog, etc.) which will create the illusion that the lightsaber has deflected a laser beam. The patent also says that these “real” lightsabers will include a haptic feedback feature that will let the guest know they have successfully deflected a blaster shot using their lightsaber with vibration and other unit movement.
Now while this patent doesn’t mention exactly how this new technology will fit into Star Wars Land, we have a few educated guesses about how this new technology may find its way into Disney’s theme parks, and one involves a project that Disney has taken care to be very secretive about ever since the official announcement of Star Wars Land last year.
2. Could this technology be used in the super-secret First Order ride?
One of the ways we’d guess that this new technology may find its way into Star Wars Land is via the as-yet untitled First Order ride. Though Disney confirmed this attraction earlier this year, they have not provided any details about it, refusing even to release the name of the attraction. The only thing we do know about this ride (thanks to a lone clip from a concept video) is that this attraction will have a motion base ride system, and at some point guests will move through a scene with Stormtroopers firing at them. And that’s where this new technology might come in to play: could lightsabers be wielded during this scene to make it interactive?
Such a development certainly seems possible, but the issue would be that either Disney would have to equip all riders with these lightsabers (in the same way they do 3D glasses) before they ride, which would be a big drain on the budget, as these lightsabers would constantly be breaking, coming up missing, etc. And even if Disney was able to make a super-durable lightsaber that could attach to the ride vehicle via a cord or locking mechanism, there’s also the fact that guests might accidentally whack each other while they’re waving these lightsabers around, potentially causing injury.
Though it’d be cool to have a ride that incorporates this lightsaber technology, Disney would have to think of some truly creative solutions to make this a feasible option. However, there’s another potential use for this technology inside its parks that might not be as complex to implement…
3. Interactive possibilities around Star Wars Land
Over at Universal Orlando Resort, one of the biggest hits of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley is the interactive wand feature. Nearly every person who has walked through this area has wanted to purchase an interactive wand, which can be used at over two dozen spell areas to make real “magic” happen around both Diagon Alley and (to a lesser extent) Hogsmeade as well.
Now while it might be a little bit harder to swing a two-foot lightsaber around a Disney park the same way you might swish and flick a ten-inch wand, Disney could create special “training zones” where guests who have purchased these lightsabers can take part in specific excercises involving this technology, perhaps with a favorite characters like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, or even Rey guiding users of the force with their new lightsabers. Disney could even re-imagine their Jedi Training Academy attraction to take advantage of this new technology, perhaps moving this attraction indoors to ensure the authenticity of the effects. Not only would installing interactive areas where guests could use these lightsabers increase the immersiveness of this new land, but it would also help draw guests away from the two new rides confirmed to be coming to this park, which are sure to command huge wait times during their first few years of operation.
While nothing is set in stone yet, and it is certainly possible that we won’t ever see this technology at a Disney park (Disney files dozens of patents every year that are never used) we’re hopeful that this proposed “real” lightsaber technology will come to Star Wars Land in the future, as it could bring an exciting level of immersion to this new theme park area that would make it unlike anything else Disney has ever done. What do you think about the possibilities of this patented lightsaber technology? How do you think it could be used best at Star Wars Land?
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