Hello, everyone. Today, we'll take a look at some great new technologies and
do a little thinking out loud here on how they could appear in theme parks
in the future (even if they were not originally designed for them). For a better
understanding of what we're talking about today, click on the provided links to
watch videos on the subject.
What inspired this piece today was the return of Honda's Asimo
robot to Disneyland's Innoventions. Plus, since the day Walt's original park
opened, we've always been interested in new theme
park technologies, haven't we?
The Honda presentation at Disneyland is the only regularly scheduled way to
see Asimo in the U.S. During the quarter-hour show, the robot dances, chats with
the host and audience, kicks a ball and even climbs up and back down some
Honda in their press materials has mentioned how Asimo in further developed
models may be used to assist the disabled, or act as a guide in a busy public
setting such as a mall or airport.
There are also quite a few industrial technologies that will never end up at
the local superstore, but have the interest of a lot of Disney's Imagineers. I'm
sure many of you have been reading online about the KUKA robot arm - which will
now be a major
part of the technology used in the big 'E-ticket' Harry Potter attraction
at Universal Orlando's Islands of Adventure.
It's been one of the worst kept
secrets online that Tony Baxter and a WDI research team were
working to use that arm on an attraction based on Pixar's 'Incredibles.'
Apparently Universal went to KUKA with a Harry Potter concept
using the same technology (in a different manner than Disney) and was able to
secure a ten year exclusive on the robot arm for theme park use.
If you're traveling to France, you can get to experience the KUKA robot arm
in action at the Futuroscope theme park, just two hours
outside of Paris. Below is a video link that will let you see how it
Originally the arm was designed for automobile assembly lines,
until somebody got the bright idea to attach two seats on the end of the arm. Of course, it
could also be used in a more subtle way, and the word was that WDI was
investigating just that. The word on the Harry Potter attraction is that the famous 'flying car'
will be attached to the arm. Add a movie projected in the room and the
car, just like in the films, will 'fly' after the Hogwarth Express.
Another less complex technology (that has been discussed in a previous column
here) could also find itself first appearing in theme parks. It's the 3D holographic 'video' poster technology
invented by XYZ Imaging. They have been able to
reproduce a six second video sequence on a flat poster. The video below does a
good job of showing you just how it works.
These 'video' posters would fit right into futuristic
environments like Tomorrowland or Epcot's Futureworld. But they could even find
their way into classic attractions such as The Haunted Mansion. (Imagine a portrait
suddenly - and unexpectedly - moving in front of you!) Not just the parks can
find this of use, in the
next ten years Disney could sell 3D 'video' holographic posters of all their
t'ween recording acts and the cast of High School Musical 22.
The next item on the list won't probably be used in a ride, but it may pop up in
the Disney parks in the near future. Keeping the new touch screen iPhone in
mind, those of you who have seen Steven Spielberg's "Minority Report" will
probably remember the giant touch screen that Tom Cruise uses in the movie. Well, their time
is coming, much sooner than you may realize. The videos links below show that two
different kinds of touch screens are on the way.
The first is Microsoft's "Surface." Imagine a table at Starbuck's
with a computer touch screen as the surface. Here you can
display the photos you took that day, move them on the screen with your
finger just like you will do if they were printed on photo paper, be able to
make them bigger or smaller, and you won't even need a cable to
connect your camera, as a wireless link will transfer all the files back and
forth between the two.